February 3 – His crime was to call the queen a schismatic

February 1, 2018

Blessed John Nelson

English Jesuit martyr, b. at Skelton, four miles from York, in 1534; d. at Tyburn, 3 February, 1577-78. He went to Douay in 1573, and two of his four brothers followed his example and became priests. He was ordained priest at Binche, in Hainault, by Mgr Louis de Berlaymont, Archbishop of Cambrai, 11 June, 1576. He was sent on the mission on 7 November following, and appears to have laboured in London. His apprehension took place 1 December, 1577, “late in the evening as he was saying the Nocturne of the Matins for the next day following”, and he was committed to Newgate as a suspected Papist. His arrest and its issue had been foretold by a demon he had exercised a week before. The High Commissioners in a few days by cross-examination induced him to say that the queen was a schismatic.

His death sentence, which was to be hung, drawn and quartered.This constituted high treason under the legislation of 1571. He was providentially enabled to say Mass in Newgate, 30 January, 1577-8, and two days later he was brought to the bar and condemned. Thenceforward he was confined “in a most filthy underground dungeon”, doubtless the Pit of the Tower, preparing by prayer and fasting for his end. He was cut down alive, and his last words, when the hangman plucked out his heart, are reported to have been: “I forgive the queen and all the authors of my death.” The date and place of his admission to the Society of Jesus are unknown.

CAMM, Lives of the English Martyrs, II (London, 1004-5), 223; ALLEN, A Briefe Historie (POLLEN’s edition London, 1908) 111; GILLOW, Bibliographical Dictionary of tie English Catholics, V (London and New York, 1885-1902), 160.

John B. Wainewrigh (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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