Thursday, December 27, 2012

St. John Stone, a "Supremacy" Martyr

St. John Stone was an Augustinian Canon, who refused to acknowledge Henry VIII's title as the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church in England, and thus I call him a "Supremacy" martyr:

Almost nothing is known of John's early years or of his life and activities as an Augustinian.

The Parliament of England in 1534 approved a law known as the Act of Supremacy. This Act proclaimed King Henry VIII the supreme head of the Church in England.

Four years later, an official of the King arrived in Canterbury to close all the monasteries and to obtain the written assent of every single Friar to the provisions of the Act of Supremacy. The official first went to the monasteries of several other Orders. Then they went to Austin Friars, the Augustinian house where John was a member. All the other Augustinian Friars signed the document, but John refused.

John was arrested and thrown into prison in the Tower of London. He remained firm in his refusal to accept the King as head of the Church. While in jail, he spent many hours in prayer. One day, God spoke to him, encouraging him to be of good heart and to remain steadfast in his belief, even if it meant death. From this point on, John felt great strength.

John was tried and convicted of treason in 1539. Right after Christmas of that year, a slow procession passed through the streets of Cangerbury. The prisoner John was being taken through the city to a hill outside the city walls. There he was hanged, drawn and quartered. Because he was considered a traitor, his head and body were put on display at the entrance to the city.

Pope Leo XIII beatified John Stone in 1886. Pope Paul VI canonized him in 1970, along with 39 other English martyrs of the same period.

St. John Stone had long opposed Henry; he had spoken against Henry's effort to have his first marriage nullified to remarry--it is no surprise that he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy! His last words were: "Behold I close my apostolate in my blood, In my death I shall find life, for I die for a holy cause, the defence of the Church of God, infallible and immaculate." He alone of his friary stood up against Henry VIII; the rest of them would be pentioned off a few years later when the friary was suppressed.

More here, including an illustration of the Canon in the Tower of London, and more on the Austin Friary in Canterbury here. According to that second website, the city records contain these details for what it cost to execute Friar John Stone:

"Paid for half a ton of timber to make a pair of gallows to hang Friar Stone, 2s. 6d.; to a labourer that digged the holes, 3d.; to four men that helped set up the gallows for drink to them, for carriage of the timber from Stablegate to Dongeon (i.e. Dane John), 1s.; for a hurdle, 6d.; for a load of wood and for a horse to draw him to the Dongeon, 2s. 3d.; paid two men that set the kettle and parboiled him, 1s.; to two men that carried his quarters to the gates and set them up, 1s.; for halters to hang him and Sandwich cord and for straw, 1s.; to a woman that scoured the kettle, 2d.; to him that did the execution, 3s. 8d."

Those are rather horrible details: sharing 1s. for parboiling the quarters of a friar; sharing 1s. for hanging his quarters to the gates of Canterbury! He was drawn to the hill of Dane John overlooking Canterbury and would have seen his suppressed friary below before he died the death of a traitor. The date of his execution is not certain, but I chose today's date as it is also the Feast of St. John the Beloved Apostle in the Octave of Christmas. St. John Stone, pray for us!

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