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Martyrs Mementoes - Week 4

Last year, Fr Nicholas Schofield kindly presented to the Guild about the inspiring martyrs of England and Wales. (See the replay at

A super little book long out of copyright, Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales, tells many stories. [Nibil obstat and Imprimatur, 10 March 1910] It was written by Rev Fr. Henry Sebastien Bowden of the London Oratory, a priest who had a role in the long and eventual death-bed conversion of Oscar Wilde.

These mementoes will be published so far as practicality permits for the benefit of Guild members each week through 2022. They will appear in the London Region's Newsletter which you can sign-up for by contacting Stewart Lawrence. We hope they provide interest and devotion.

Previous instances: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3


This fourth week, the great dedication of priests to minister in secret, bringing the sacraments to grateful faithful helping them to save their souls.

January 23 

Ven. NICOLAS WOODFEN, Pr., 1586 

His true name was Nicolas Wheeler.  He was born at Leominster, Herefordshire, and in the school of that town he was esteemed highly for his abilities.  He performed his priest's studies at Douay and Rheims, and was ordained at the latter town, March 25, 1581.  He was sent on the English Mission the following June, and arrived in London in a state of great necessity, having, as he said, no money to buy food and scarce clothes for his back.  A fellow-priest, Father Davis, whose address he found, supplied his immediate needs and introduced him to Catholics, and by the help of Mr. Francis Brown, Lord Montague's brother, a lodging was found for him at a haberdasher's in Fleet Street.  There, disguised as a lawyer, he laboured with great profit among the members of the Inns of Court, for he had a handsome presence, affable and courteous manners, and great power of attraction.  But Morris, the pursuivant, found him out and forced him to flee.  He was again nearly caught with Father Davis in his next hiding-place at Sir T. Tresham's house at Hoxton, but his hour was not yet come.  The third time, however, he fell into the pursuivant's hands: he was tried, sentenced, and suffered with great constancy at Tyburn, January 21, 1586. 

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word: thou 
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." GAL. v. 14. 

January 24 

Ven. IRELAND, S.J., and JOHN GROVE, L., 1679 

IRELAND was of gentle birth.  His uncle was killed in the King's service and his relations assisted Charles II to escape after his defeat at Worcester.  Educated at St. Omers, he entered the Society of Jesus, went on the English Mission in 1677, and was apprehended as a conspirator in the pretended Gates Plot.  Gates swore that he had been present with Ireland at a meeting held in August to kill the King.  Ireland proved by the evidence of above forty witnesses, many of them of note, that he was in the country, when Gates swore he was in London, at the time named, yet he was condemned to death.  Ireland said he pardoned all who had a hand in his death, that if he were guilty of treason he would be bound then to declare it, or the name of any accomplice, even of his own father.  "As for ourselves," he said, "we would beg a thousand pardons both of God and man; but seeing that we cannot be believed we must commit ourselves to the mercy of Almighty God, and hope to find pardon through Christ." 

After begging the prayers of all Catholics, he was executed at Tyburn, with John Grove, a Catholic layman, whose innocence was likewise fully proved, January 14, 1679. The cheerful patience and constancy of both martyrs astonished the beholders. 

"A false witness shall not be unpunished, and 
he that speaketh lies shall perish." PROV. xix. 9. 

January 25 


BORN and brought up as a Protestant, he studied the books of his religion earnestly, and at the age of eighteen considered himself a master in controversy and was very anxious to dispute with some Catholic priest.  Father Stanney was applied to, and appointed a place and date for the conference.  Having first preached on the Real Presence, for the day was within the Octave of Corpus Christi, he saw Humphrey in private, and in a short time reconciled him to the Church.  Though his life had been blameless before the world, he was now filled with contrition for his past sins, and an ardent desire to spread that faith which he had so strongly opposed.  He visited the Catholic prisoners, catechised the ignorant, and prepared schismatics for their conversion.  Falling grievously ill he said in the height of fever that the Queen was a heretic, and for this he was imprisoned in Winchester jail and sentenced to death at the age of twenty-one.  On mounting the ladder he made the sign of the Cross on the rounds and was mocked by the hangman for so doing.  Humphrey smiled in return, and the hangman, furious, boxed his ear.  The martyr meekly replied, "Why do you treat me thus?  I never gave you cause."  He suffered at Winchester, 1591. 

"I will shew him how great things he must 
suffer for My name's sake." ACTS ix. 16. 

January 26 


HENRY VIII took such pleasure in More's company that he would sometimes upon the sudden come to his house at Chelsea to be merry with him, whither on a time unlocked for he came to dinner, and after dinner, in a fair garden of his, walked with him by the space of an hour holding his arms about his neck.  Of all of which favours he made no more account than a deep wise man should do.  Wherefore, when that after the King's departure his son-in-law, Mr. William Roper, rejoicingly came unto him saying these words, "Sir, how happy are you whom the King hath so familiarly enter tained, as I have never seen him do to any other except Cardinal Wolsey, whom I have seen his Grace walk withal arm in arm."  Sir Thomas More answered in this sort: "I thank our Lord, son, I find his Grace my very good Lord indeed, and I believe he doth as singularly favour me as he doth any subject within this realm.  Howbeit, Son Roper, I have no cause to be proud thereof, for if my head could win him one castle in France, it should not fail to serve his turn." 

"It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than 
to trust in princes." Ps. cxvii. 9. 

St. Thomas More

January 27 

"WHEN a priest comes to their houses they first salute him as a stranger unknown to them, and then they take him to an inner chamber where an oratory is set up, when all fall on their knees and beg his blessing.  If he says he must go tomorrow, as he usually does, for it is dangerous to stay longer, they all prepare for Confession that evening.  The next morning they hear Mass and receive Holy Communion; then after preaching, and giving his blessing a second time, the priest departs, conducted by one of the young gentlemen (that is, of the Catholic Association).  No one is to be found to complain of the length of the Services.  If the Mass does not last nearly an hour many are discontented.  If six, eight, or more Masses are said in the same place, and in the same day (as often happens when there is a meeting of priests), the same congregation will assist at all.  When they can get priests they confess every week.  Quarrels are scarce known amongst them.  Disputes are almost always left to the arbitration of the priest.  They do not willingly intermarry with heretics, nor will they pray with them, nor do they like to have any dealing with them." 

"Thou hast prepared a table before me against 
them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my 
head with oil, and my chalice which inebriateth 
me how goodly is it." Ps. xxii. 5. 

Mass in Penal Times in Ireland, much the same as a scene in England & Wales

January 28 

Ven. ARTHUR BELL, O.S.F., on the Scaffold 

"DEAR COUNTRYMEN, give ear to me, and as you desire to be delivered from your present miseries put an end to your sins; for without doubt your enormous crimes are the cause of the calamities under which you groan.  But above all I exhort you to renounce heresy, in which you have been so long engaged; for this (with grief I speak it) has cut you off like putrid members from the body of Christ, and like dead branches from the tree of His Church.  But if you resolve to persist in loving darkness more than light, long afflictions will attend you, and certainly many calamities and miseries threaten this city and the whole kingdom unless they desist from persecuting priests and Catholics.  See and consider, I beseech you, the afflictions with which God has begun visibly to punish you, and be assured that all these punishments are tokens of His love, and a proof that He would not destroy you but as it were by constraint.  I repeat, these chastisements, civil wars, and calamities are inflicted to bring you from shipwreck into the haven of the Catholic Church.  Abuse, then, no longer His mercy, nor force him to destroy you by obstinacy in your evils." 

"Know thou and see that it is an evil and a 
bitter thing to have left the Lord thy God." 
JER. ii. 19. 

January 29 


HE was born of good Catholic parents in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, Oxford; was educated in St. John's College in that university, and took his B.A. degree 1576.  Shortly after this he left the University, was reconciled to the Church, entered Douay, and was ordained priest at Rheims in December 1580.  He was sent on the English Mission in June 1581, and was soon famous as a preacher; but he had a particular gift for winning the souls of young men, and in July 1583 returned to Rheims with a band of ten Oxford undergraduates, five of whom were from Trinity College, viz. John Atkins, William Morgan, John and Walter Owen, and Richard Blount.  After remaining some time at Rheims with Cardinal Allen, who loved him much, he returned to labour in London, and lived in constant peril of arrest, but having great presence of mind he effected wonderful escapes.  He had bad health, being far gone in consumption; but he never ceased to mortify himself, and generally wore a hair shirt.  He had a great devotion to the Divine Office, and rebuked a priest for saying it in bed, but his corrections were always made with tact.  He suffered at Tyburn, January 21, 1586. 

"I became all things to all men that I might 
save all." i COR. ix. 22. 


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