Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Martyrs of 1588, Part IV

On October 5, 1588, English authorities continued their execution of Catholic priests after the Spanish Armada: Father William Hartley, Father John Hewitt, and Robert Sutton were all martyred in London. Father Hartley was born in the Diocese of Lichfield and brought up a Protestant. He was Chaplain and Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, but Tobie Matthew, later Archbishop of York removed him from his post because he seemed "too Catholic." He then went to Rheims, was reconciled to the Catholic Church, ordained, and returned to the English Mission in 1580.

He was arrested, in the house of Lady Stonor, and imprisoned in the Tower within year and held in prison for five years. In 1585 he was banished, along with 20 other priests, but he returned to England even though he knew the consequences. When he was captured again, the government was not in a banishing mood. Three martyrs set out on October 5: Father Hartley died at Shoreditch and his mother witnessed his execution.Father John Hewitt, who had been captured in the Spanish Netherlands by Lord Leicester and send back to England for trial died at Mile's End Green, and Robert Sutton suffered at Clerkenwell.

The Stonor family was the great recusant family of South Oxfordshire. St. Edmund Campion and Father Robert Parsons had a base of operations there, including a printing press. Father Hartley took 400 copies of Campion's "Decem Rationes" to Oxford's St. Mary the Virgin. More about the Stonor Press here.

Lady Cecily Stonor offered quite a defense of her recusancy after her arrest in 1581:

I was born in such a time when Holy Mass was in great reverence and was brought up in the same faith. In King Edward's time this reverence was neglected and reproved by such as governed. In Queen Mary's it was restored with much applause, and now in this time it pleaseth the State to question them, as now they do me, who continue in the Catholic profession. The State would have the several changes, which I have seen with mine eyes, good and laudable. Whether it can be so I refer to your Lordships' consideration. I hold me still to that wherein I was born and bred, and find nothing taught in it but great virtue and sanctity, and so by the grace of God I will live and die in it.

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