Monday, October 19, 2015

St. Philip Howard, Martyr in Chains

The story of St. Philip Howard exemplifies both conversion and martyrdom, as this site demonstrates:

Queen Elizabeth I became aware of the change in Philip, particularly noting his reconciliation with Anne, so when Anne was reported to her as a recusant she seized the opportunity and had her arrested. Their first child, a daughter, was born while she was in the custody of Sir Thomas Shirley at Wiston in Sussex. Philip had her baptised in the Protestant church. But nevertheless he was very near to his great decision, which eventually he came to at Arundel Castle in 1584. He was reconciled to the Church by the Jesuit Father William Weston.

This was no token conversion. It meant a complete change of life for Philip. He had a priest in his Charterhouse home in London, so that he could have daily Mass. Prayer became a regular part of his life. He continued to attend the Lords and the Court, but avoided attending Church services on various pretexts. The great question now in his mind was; how could he best serve the Catholic cause? He wrote to Cardinal Allen at Douai asking his advice. The letter was intercepted, and the Queen’s Council, using a priest in their pay, sent a bogus reply recommending him to leave England. Although Father Weston and all his friends had been against it, Philip accepted what he thought was Allen’s advice, and secretly took ship for the Continent. But of course his movements were known to the Council, and off the coast he was boarded by a warship and brought back under arrest.

Being held in the Tower of London at Queen Elizabeth's pleasure, Howard was only 28 years old. He would never leave the Tower, not even for a beheading on Tower Green, for he was accused of supporting the Spanish Armada in 1588. Although condemned to death, that execution was never scheduled:

Philip was condemned unanimously and was returned to the Tower. He was never to know whether the sentence would be carried out. He intensified his hours of prayer and fasting, and occupied himself in writing and translating books of piety. For a time he was supported as before by Father Southwell’s letters, until he too was apprehended and sent to the Tower. The two never met, although Philip’s dog did find his way to Southwell’s cell.

By the time Robert Southwell was executed at Tyburn, Philip was dying by degrees, from the privations of his imprisonment. He appealed again to the Queen to allow him to see his wife and son. The Queen replied: if Philip would go but once to their church, not only would she grant his request, but he would be restored to his estates and honours with as much favour as she could show. Philip once more sadly declined the offer. Nothing could show more clearly that, as Robert Southwell had written, “your cause, by whatever name it may be disfigured, by whatever colour deformed in the eyes of men, is religion.”

The last night of his life was spent mainly in prayer; he died on Sunday 19th October 1595 at noon. He was thirty eight. The immediate cause of death was most probably dysentery, though rumours of poison were current at the time. They buried him in his father’s grave in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. It was nearly thirty years before his widow could get his body removed to her home at West Horsley, and then to Arundel, to be laid in the family vault, the Fitzalan Chapel.

St. Philip Howard is one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales, canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

His motto from the wall of his cell in the Tower: “Quanto plus afflictionis pro Christo in saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro.”

“The more affliction we endure for Christ in this world, the more glory we shall obtain with Christ in the next.”

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