ENGLISH CARTHUSIAN MARTYRS (d.1535-1540), priests, a deacon and religious
Today, the Church commemorates a group of Carthusian monks who were hanged, and then drawn-and-quartered, between May 4, 1535 and August 4, 1540 for maintaining their allegiance to the pope and the authority of the Holy See of Rome, thereby refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England.
The Order of Carthusians, founded by Saint Bruno in 1084, is considered by many to be the strictest and most ascetic monastic order in the Western Church. They live an austere hermitic life, their ‘monastery’ actually consisting of a number of hermitages built next to each other.
When Henry VIII issued his “Act of Supremacy” in 1534, declaring that all who refused to take an oath recognizing him as head of the Church of England committed an act of high treason, 18 Carthusian monks refused to take the oath and were sentenced to death.
The first to die were the Carthusian Prior of London, Father John Houghton, and two of his Carthusian brothers, Fathers Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster; all three were hanged, and then drawn-and-quartered, on May 4, 1535. Father Houghton is said to have declared his fidelity to the Catholic Church and forgiven his executioners before dying.
Saint Thomas More, watching their execution from the window of his cell in the Tower of London one month before his own death, remarked to his daughter, Margaret, how the men went “…to their deaths as cheerfully as bridegrooms to their marriage.”
The Carthusians were the first martyrs to die under the reign of Henry VIII. Two more were killed on June 19th of that year and, by August 4, 1540, all 18 had been tortured and killed for refusing to place their allegiance to the king before their allegiance to the pope.
All were beatified, most by Pope Leo XIII in December, 1886. Fathers John Houghton, Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster were canonized saints by Pope St. Paul VI on October 25, 1970.
We commemorate their joint feastday on May 4.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, carthusianmartyrs.blogspot, catholic.org/saints and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Several Martyrs)
“God our Father, You give us joy each year in honoring the memory of Your Carthusian martyrs, John, Robert, Augustine and Your other devoted sons, all who remained faithful to the Vicar of Christ on Earth. May their prayers be a source of help for us, and may their example of courage be our inspiration.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”