Monday, December 12, 2011

Blessed Thomas Holland, SJ: December 12, 1642

Today's English Catholic martyr, Thomas Holland, SJ sounds like a brilliant man: fluent in many languages; a scholar and a diplomat:

He was probably son of Richard Holland, gentleman, was educated at St. Omer's College and subsequently in August, 1621, went to Valladolid, where he took the missionary oath 29 December 1633. When the abortive negotiations for the "Spanish Match" were taking place in 1623, Holland was sent to Madrid to assure Prince Charles of the loyalty of the seminarists of Valladolid, which he did in a Latin oration.

In 1624 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Watten in Flanders, and not long after was ordained priest at Li├Ęge. After serving as minister at Ghent and prefect at St. Omer's he was made a spiritual coadjutor at Ghent (28 May 1634) and sent on the English mission the following year. He was an adept in disguising himself, and could speak perfect French, Spanish, and Flemish.

He was eventually arrested on suspicion in a London street 4 October 1642, and committed to the New Prison. He was afterwards transferred to Newgate, and arraigned at the Old Bailey, 7 December, for being a priest. There was no conclusive evidence as to this; but as he refused to swear he was not, the jury found him guilty, to the indignation of the Lord Mayor, Isaac Penington, and another member of the bench named Garroway. On Saturday, 10 December, Sergeant Peter Phesant, presumably acting for the recorder, passed sentence on him. On his return to prison Holland heard many confessions.

On Sunday and Monday he was able to say Mass in prison, and soon after his last Mass was taken off to execution. There he was allowed to make a speech and to say many prayers, and when the cart was turned away, he was left to hang till he was dead. His brethren called him "bibliotheca pietatis".

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