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Martyrs Mementoes - Week 5

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 | Week 4


This fifth week, one of the Forty Holy Martyrs, Henry Morse; and the importance of the Last Rites (especially Holy Viaticum) for Bl John Nelson and a reinforcement that one doesn't know when death will come.

January 30 

Ven. RALPH SHERWIN, Pr., Dec. 1st

HE wrote at Geneva when on his way from Rome to England with Fathers Campion, Persons, and others, as follows: 

"Well, our inn being taken, forthwith Father Persons and Mr. Paschal, with Mr. Patrick, his man (Campion disguised as a servant), and myself, went out to talk with Beza, whom we found in his house, and there saluted him, showing that passing that way we thought good to see him, for that he was a man talked of in all the world.  And after such speech Father Persons asked how his Church was governed; who said by equality in the ministry, and that they were nine, and that every one ruled his week.  Then it was said that we had bishops in England, and that the Queen was the continual head.  He answered shamefully that he knew not that, but after these assertions, though much declining, insinuated that he liked not that; yet, being urged, said, as they commonly shift, that they differed in discipline, not in doctrine.  All this while Mr. Campion stood waiting with his hat in his hand, facing out the doting, heretical fool.  After this he told some false, bad news, and then came strangers with letters, and so we were forced to leave." 

"A man that is a heretic avoid, knowing that he that is such a one is subverted and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment." 
TITUS iii. 10, ii. 

January 31 


IN May 1533, preaching before Henry VIII at Greenwich, on the history of Achab, Peto tried to persuade him to separate from Anne Boleyn, and applied to the king the prophet's threat.  "I am that Micheas," he said, "whom thou wilt hate, because I must tell thee truly that this marriage is unlawful.  I know that I shall eat the bread of affliction and drink the water of sorrow, yet because our Lord hath put it into my mouth I must speak it.  There are many other preachers who will persuade you otherwise, feeding thy folly and frail affections upon hope of their own worldly promotion, and by that means betraying thy soul, thy honour, and thy posterity to obtain fat benefices, become rich abbots and get ecclesiastical dignities.  These, I say, are the four hundred prophets who in the spirit of lying seek to deceive thee.  But take good heed lest being seduced thou hast found Achah's punishment, and have thy blood licked up by the dogs."  From Henry's dead body, though embalmed, there issued, owing to a fall in the coffin, a quantity of blood and corrupt matter, which was licked up by a great black dog, which the guards tried in vain to kill. 

"Where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall the dogs lick thy blood, even thine."  3 KINGS xxi. 19. 

Saint Henry Morse

February 1

Ven. HENRY MORSE, S.J., 1645 

"I AM come hither to die for my religion, for that religion which is professed by the Catholic Roman Church, founded by Christ, established by the Apostles, propagated through all ages by a hierarchy always visible to this day, grounded on the testimonies of Holy Scriptures, upheld by the authority of Fathers and Councils, out of which, in fine, there can be no hopes of salvation.  Time was when I was a Protestant, being then a student of the law in the Inns of Court in town, till, being suspicious of the truth of my religion, I went abroad into Flanders, and upon full conviction renounced my former errors, and was reconciled to the Church of Rome, the mistress of all Churches.  Upon my return to England I was committed to prison for refusing to take the oath of supremacy, and banished.  After seven years I returned to England as a priest, and devoted myself to the poor and the plague-stricken."  "No self-glorification," here interrupted the Sheriff. "I will glory only in God," continued the martyr, "who has pleased to allow me to seal the Catholic faith with my blood, and I pray that my death may atone for the sins of this nation, for which end and in testimony of the one true Catholic faith confirmed by miracles now as ever, I willing die." Tyburn, February 1, 1645.

"Thy testimonies, O Lord, are made exceedingly credible."
Ps. xcii. 5. 

February 2 

Ven. HENRY MORSE, S.J., 1645 

ON February 1, 1645, the day of his execution, he celebrated, early in the morning, a votive Mass of the Blessed Trinity in thanksgiving for the great favour God was pleased to do him in calling him to the crown of martyrdom, having first, according to custom, recited the Litanies of our Blessed Lady and of all the Saints, for the conversion of England.  After which he made an exhortation to the Catholics who were present, and, having rested for an hour, said the Canonical Hours, and then visited his fellow prisoners, and took leave of them with a cheerfulness that was extraordinary.  The little space that remained he employed in prayer with a religious of his order, till, being admonished that his time was come, he cast himself on his knees, and, with hands and eyes lifted up to Heaven, gave hearty thanks to Almighty God for His infinite mercy towards him, and offered himself without reserve as a sacrifice to His Divine Majesty.  "Come, my sweetest Jesus," said he, "that I may now be inseparably united to Thee in time and eternity: welcome ropes, hurdles, gibbets, knives, and butchery, welcome for the love of Jesus my Saviour." At nine he was drawn on a sledge by four horses to Tyburn.

"What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that he hath rendered to me?  I will take the chalice of salvation, and look upon the name of the Lord."  Ps. cxv. 3, 4. 

February 3 

B. JOHN NELSON, S.J., 1578 

UPON Monday, February 3, 1577, being the day of his martyrdom, he came very early, before day, up to the higher part of the prison; where as, from Saturday till then, he had been kept in a low dungeon.  Two of his nearest kinsmen coming to him found him earnest at his prayers with his hands joined together and lifted up, insomuch that the other prisoners there present did both mark it and wonder at it much.  When they had talked awhile together, and he saw them so full of sorrow that they had much ado to abstain from weeping, yet for all that he was nothing moved himself, neither gave any sign or appearance of sorrow either in voice or countenance, but rebuked them, saying that he looked for some comfort and consolation of them in that case, and not by their tears to be occasioned to grieve; willing them further to weep for their sins, and not for him, for he had a sure confidence that all should go well with him.  When his kinsmen took their last farewell, they fell into such immoderate lamentations that he was somewhat moved, but repressed nature, and dismissed them.  He suffered at Tyburn, the second of the seminarist martyrs, and was admitted into the Society of Jesus before his death. 

"But Jesus turning to them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but for your children." LUKE xxiii. 28. 

February 4 

B. JOHN NELSON, S.J., 1578 

BORN, in 1534, of an ancient Yorkshire family, he was nearly forty years of age when he went to the newly-established college at Douay and was ordained, and of his four brothers two followed his example.  He returned to England 1577, and after a year's ministry was called upon to exorcise a possessed person.  The evil spirit, when it was cast out, told him that it would cost him his life.  He was apprehended, Sunday, December 1, as he was saying the next day's Matins.  He refused to take the oath of supremacy, declared repeatedly that the Pope was the Supreme Head of the Church and that the new religion set up in England was both schismatical and heretical as a voluntary departure from Catholic unity.  For this statement he was condemned as guilty of high treason.  He had always held that England would never be restored to the Church save by blood-shedding, and that his own life would be taken for that cause.  He received his sentence therefore with great calmness and prepared himself for death.  He was confined in a filthy underground dungeon infested with vermin.  The jailer's wife offered him some wine, but he refused it, saying he would prefer water or rather vinegar and gall, to more closely follow his Lord. 

"And they gave Him wine mingled with gall, which, when He had tasted, He would not drink." MATT. xvii. 34. 

February 5 

B. JOHN NELSON, S.J., 1578 

THE thought of the joy and alacrity with which the martyrs suffered so comforted him, that he doubted not he himself would be consoled by God in the midst of his agony.  And surely this courage and willingness to die came from this: that on the Thursday before his arraignment and death he had cleansed his conscience by confession, and had fortified himself by receiving the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.  A priest, his friend, wishing to be communicated by Nelson, fixed upon Candlemas day, because of the solemnity of the Feast, but, reflecting that such festivals are more subject to suspicion, they concluded to defer it till the day after Candlemas; but Mr. Nelson wished rather to anticipate the Feast and to communicate upon the Thursday before, which was done: though, at that time, neither he nor any of his friends suspected that he should so shortly come to his martyrdom.  When, behold ! the very next day after, word was brought him that he was to be arraigned on the morrow, and should be undoubtedly condemned if he did not revoke his former words, and so indeed it fell out.  Thus by God's special providence he had chosen the Thursday before the Feast; for otherwise, he must have died without the sacred viaticum. 

"And he walked in the strength of that food to Horeb the Mount of God." 3 KINGS xxx. 8. 


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