Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blessed Thomas Bullaker, OFM

These are the bare outlines of Blesssed Thomas Bullaker's life:
Born the only son of a pious, well-to-do physician c.1603 in Midhurst, Sussex, England. Studied at the English College in Saint-Omer, France. Studied at the Royal English College at Valladolid, Spain. Joined the Franciscans in 1622, taking the name John Baptist. Ordained in Valladolid c.1627. He returned to England where he ministered to covert Catholics for twelve years. Arrested twice, he was sentenced to death for the crime of being a priest. hanged, drawn, and quartered on 12 October 1642 at Tyburn, London England. Beatified 22 November 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Nearly all the priests martyred during the recusant or penal era of English history followed that pattern. They left home and family, studied abroad, returned and worked, suffered, and died. As you keep seeing that pattern you could become too used to it and not stop to think about all those bare facts.

Thomas's father, a pious and successful physician and his mother, the wife of a pious and successful physician, might yet deeply have regretted their son leaving home and becoming a priest, especially a missionary priest. It could be a danger to them; James I passed laws that penalized the families of England emigrants to Catholic colleges abroad. They might have had a prominent position in town; his father's medical practice may have suffered. They would have been concerned about him, so far from home and even more concerned about him when he came home, although they may never have seen him again.--I don't think I'm making up details that are too outside the realm of possibility.

He studied at St. Omer and at Valladolid, Spain: again, leaving England to study secretly on the Continent was illegal--the whole enterprise of traveling across country to a port and crossing the England Channel was difficult and dangerous. And then studying at the English colleges meant poverty and hard work. Father Robert Parsons, SJ had to find help from French and Spanish nobles and royalty to pay for housing, food, books, etc. This was not just a matter of attending college out of state!

Twelve years a missionary and arrested twice: Remember this meant life on the run, always in disguise, in danger all the time. Even if being arrested and imprisoned did not include torture, there was always discomfort, illness, and mistreatment to deal with. And finally, the trial and execution: being hung, drawn, and quartered, enduring a horrible death.

Blessed Thomas Bullaker, pray for us!

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