Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blessed William Hart, A Martyr with Connections

From this account, taken from the old Catholic Encyclopedia, Blessed William Hart travelled widely to fulfill his vocation as priest after returning to the Catholic faith. The Catholic college and seminary had to move from Douai to Reims because of religious wars in the Spanish Netherlands (where Douai then was). He has that fascinating connection to St. Margaret Clitherow and her household. The Trappes scholarship was established at Lincoln College by Joyce or Jocosa Frankland, who also established fellowships at Brasenose College, where she is remembered in one of the College Graces:

Qui nos creavit, redemit et pavit, sit benedictus in aeternum. Deus, exaudi orationem nostrum. Agimus tibi gratias, Pater caelestis, pro Gulielmo Smyth episcopo, et Ricardo Sutton milite, Fundatoribus nostris; pro Alexandro Nowel, Jocosa Frankland, Gulielmo Hulme, Elizabetha Morley, Mauritio Platnauer aliisque benefactoribus nostris; humiliter te precantes ut eorum numerum benignissime adaugeas.

Ecclesiam Catholicam, et populum Christianum custodi. Haereses et errores omnes extirpa. Elizabetham Reginam nostram et subditos eius defende. Pacem da et conserva, per Christum Dominum nostrum.

(May he who hath created, redeemed and provided for us be blessed forever. Hear our prayer, Lord. We give thee thanks, Heavenly Father, for William Smyth, Bishop and Richard Sutton, Knight, our Founders. For Alexander Nowel, Joyce Frankland, Elizabeth Morley, Maurice Platnauer and for our other benefactors, humbly beseeching thee that thou wilt add to their number in goodness.

Safeguard the catholic Church and all Christian people. Root out all heretical waverings. Defend Elizabeth our Queen and her subjects. Grant peace and preserve it, through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

The other martyr mentioned in this entry is Blessed William Lacy who was executed on August 22, 1582 in York. He also had been held in irons. Being held in irons was a form of torture leading to weakness and open sores. Since both priests were held in the underground dungeon, that certainly meant they were neglected, left in filth and darkness, without adequate food and water.

Born at Wells, 1558; suffered at York, 15 March, 1583. Elected Trappes Scholar at Lincoln College, Oxford, 25 May, 1571, he supplicated B.A., 18 June, 1574. The same year he followed the rector, John Bridgewater, to Douai. He accompanied the college to Reims, and returned thither after a severe operation at Namur, 22 November, 1578. He took the college oath at the English College, Rome, 23 April, 1579, whence he was ordained priest. On 26 March, 1581, he left Rome, arriving at Reims 13 May, and resuming his journey 22 May. On reaching England he laboured in Yorkshire. He was present at the Mass at which Blessed William Lacy was captured, and only escaped by standing up to his chin in the muddy moat of York Castle. Betrayed by an apostate on Christmas Day, 1582, and throne into an underground dungeon, he was put into double irons. After examination before the Dean of York and the Council of the North, he was arraigned at the Lent Assizes.

From the unprofessional account of his trial, which states that he was arraigned on two counts, we may be fairly certain that he was on trial on three, namely: (1) under 13 Eliz. c. 2 for having brought papal writings, to wit his certificate of ordination, into the realm; (2) under 13 Eliz. c. 3. for having gone abroad without royal license; and (3) under 23 Eliz. c. 1. for having reconciled John Wright and one Couling. On what counts he was found guilty does not clearly appear, but he was certainly guilty of the second.

So this brief entry, properly read, reveals a great deal about Blessed William Hart's endurance and faithfulness in pursuing his vocation and serving the Catholic minority in England. Like all of the Catholic martyrs of this era, his story is both unique and the same: the same pattern of exile, danger, torture, and death but with individual details that are so wonderful to contemplate.

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