lundi 4 mai 2015

Saint JOHN HOUGHTON, prieur chartreux et martyr

Francisco Zurbarán. St. John Houghton, O.Cart.

Saint John Houghton


Martyr en Angleterre ( 1535)

et ses compagnons martyrs, Robert Lawrence, Augustin Webster, tous deux chartreux et saint Richard Reynolds, brigittain. Tous fidèles à la foi de l'Église romaine, catholique et apostolique, jusqu'à donner leur vie pour elle qui est le Corps du Christ.

Il fait partie des Quarante martyrs d'Angleterre et du Pays de Galles qui ont été canonisés en 1970.



À Londres, en 1535, les bienheureux prêtres et martyrs Jean Houghton, Robert Lawrence et Augustin Webster, prieurs des Chartreuses de Londres, de Beauvale, et d’Axholm, et Richard Reynolds, de l’Ordre de Sainte-Brigitte, qui furent condamnés à mort pour haute trahison, parce qu’ils refusaient de reconnaître le roi Henri VIII comme chef suprême de l’Église d’Angleterre; ils furent pendus et dépecés encore vivants à Tyburn. Avec eux subit le même supplice le bienheureux Jean Haile, prêtre, curé de la paroisse d’Isleworth, réputé coupable lui aussi de haute trahison pour le même motif.


Martyrologe romain


John Houghton, Robert Lawrence, Augustine Webster, Richard Reynolds et John Haile

John est le premier de la longue file de martyrs de la persécution anglaise du XVIe siècle. Né en 1487 dans l’Essex, il étudia à Cambridge (où était chancelier John Fisher1 ), prit ses grades en droit civil et canonique, puis ressentit la vocation sacerdotale et devint prêtre. Après quatre années de ministère, il entra à vingt-huit ans chez les chartreux, où il fut estimé en vrai modèle d’obéissance, d’humilité, de mortification.

Devenu prieur de la Chartreuse de Londres, sa sainteté ne se démentit pas. Il supporta par exemple héroïquement les injures grossières et les coups d’un inférieur.

Quand le roi Henri VIII réussit à faire voter comme loi d’État la suprématie royale sur l’Église, et la condamnation pour trahison envers tous ceux qui s’y opposeraient, le saint prieur avec toute sa communauté refusa nettement de s’y soumettre. L’apprenant, le roi se montra furieux contre lui et résolut d’en faire sa première victime.

John, avec deux autres prieurs qui étaient venus le rencontrer à ce moment-là, tentèrent de fléchir Cromwell, vainement. Le 29 avril 1535, au Westminster Hall, il y eut un semblant de jugement, au terme duquel Cromwell arracha aux juges une sentence de mort pour cause de haute trahison.

Ces trois prieurs chartreux subirent le martyre le 4 mai, et on leur adjoignit aussi deux autres prêtres. Le martyre consistait à la pendaison, mais comme souvent cela se produisit dans cette persécution, on ramenait à terre les pendus avant leur mort, et on les mettait en morceaux, encore vivants.

En ce qui concerne John, quand le bourreau lui arracha le cœur, il aurait dit : “Ô Jésus, que veux-tu faire avec mon cœur ?”.

De sa cellule, Thomas More2 aperçut les martyrs et dit à sa fille Meg : “Regarde, ces bienheureux Pères vont à la mort aussi gaiement que des fiancés vont à leur mariage”.

On a moins de détails sur les autres martyrs compagnons de John.

Robert Lawrence était prieur de la chartreuse de Beauvale dans le comté de Nottingham, et Augustine Webster, prieur de celle d’Axholme dans le comté de Lincoln. Tous deux venaient de rejoindre Londres pour traiter de quelques affaires concernant leurs maisons respectives, et s’associèrent pleinement aux prises de position de leur saint Confrère John.

Richard Reynolds, de l’ordre de Sainte-Brigitte, né vers 1492, avait pris ses grades à Cambridge, et était entré à la maison de Sion, fondée pour les brigittains par la famille royale de Suède.

John Haile, prêtre séculier, exerçait le saint ministère dans la paroisse d’Isleworth depuis 1521. Assez âgé, il s’exprima fermement contre la cruauté de Henri VIII et le déclara hérétique, ce qui le fit arrêter et conduire à la Tour de Londres, et partager le sort des précédents.

Déclarés bienheureux en 1886, les Quarante Martyrs d’Angleterre et du Pays de Galles furent canonisés en 1970. Le Martyrologe mentionne nos cinq martyrs d’aujourd’hui au 4 mai.

1 Martyr lui aussi, fêté le 22 juin.


2 Martyrisé le 6 juillet, il est fêté avec John Fisher le 22 juin.

Blessed John Houghton
Protomartyr of the persecution under Henry VIII, b. in Essex, 1487; d. at Tyburn, 4 May, 1535. He was educated at Cambridge, graduating LL.B. about 1497, and later LL.D. and D.D.; he was ordained priest in 1501 and entered the Carthusian novitiate at the London Charterhouse in 1505, where he was professed in 1516. He filled the office of sacristan, 1523-28; of procurator, 1528-31; of prior of Beauvale, Nottinghamshire, from June to November, 1531; of prior of the London Charterhouse, 1531-35; and of provincial visitor, 1532-35. He was imprisoned in the Tower for about a month, with the procurator, Blessed Humphrey Middlemore, for refusing to swear that the king's marriage with Queen Catharine was invalid, but took the oath of succession under the condition quatenus licitum esset, with some of his monks, 29 May, 1534, the others being sworn 6 June. On or about 13 April, 1535, he was committed again to the Tower for refusing the oath of supremacy. With him were sent Blessed Robert Laurence, who had succeeded him as prior of Beauvale, and had previously been chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk and then a monk of the London Charterhouse; and Blessed Augustine Webster, prior of Axholme, Lincolnshire, formerly a monk of Sheen. These priors, who were on a visit to the London Charterhouse, had not had the oath tendered to them, but were brought before the Rolls for that purpose on 20 April, and, on refusing it, were sent back to the Tower. There they were joined by Blessed Richard Reynolds, a Brigittine of Syon, born about 1492, educated at Christ's and Corpus Christi colleges, Cambridge, Fellow of Corpus Christi, 1510, B.D. 1513, subsequently D.D. He became a Brigittine in 1513, and was considered one of the foremost scholars of his day. All four were indicted 28 April, 1535, under 26 Henry VIII, c. 1, for refusing the oath of supremacy. The jury at first refused to find them guilty, but were intimidated by Cromwell into doing so the next day. All were hanged in their habits without being previously degraded, and all were disembowelled while fully conscious, Houghton being the first to suffer and Reynolds the last.

With them died a secular priest, Blessed John Hale, LL.B., Fellow of King's Hall, Cambridge, and Vicar of Isleworth, Middlesex, since 13 August, 1521. He took this living in exchange for the Rectory of Cranford, Middlesex, which he had held since 11 September, 1505. There is nothing to identify him with the Rector of Chelmsford of 1492. He may possibly be the person of this name who became scholar of Eton in 1485. He was indicted 20 April, 1535, with the perpetual curate of Teddington, Middlesex, named Robert Feron, for offenses against 25 Henry VIII, c. 22. Both pleaded guilty and were condemned; but Feron was pardoned. Hale was the fourth to suffer.

Sources

CAMM, Lives of the English Martyrs (London, 1904-05), I, 1-36; HENDRIKS, The London Charterhouse (London, 1889), passim; COOPER, in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.; HAMILTON, The Angel of Syon (Edinburgh and London, 1905), passim; GILLOW, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath., s. vv.; GASQUET, Henry VIII and the English Monasteries (London, 1906), passim; HENNESSY, Novum Repertorium Parochiale Londinense (London, 1898), 133, 229; HAMILTON, Wriothesley's Chronicle, I (London, 1875), 27, 184.

Wainewright, John. "Blessed John Houghton." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 4 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08465a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Robert B. Olson. Offered to Almighty God for Timothy and Theresa Leland & Family.


Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

John Houghton, O Cart. M (RM)

Born in Essex, England, in 1487; died at Tyburn on May 4, 1535; beatified in 1886; canonized by Pius VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Saint John served as a parish priest for four years after his graduation from Cambridge. Then he joined the Carthusians, where he was named prior of Beauvale Charterhouse in Northampton and, just a few months later, prior of London Charterhouse.
In 1534, he and his procurator, Blessed Humphrey Middlemore, were arrested for refusing to accept the Act of Succession, which proclaimed the legitimacy of Anne Boleyn's children by Henry VIII. They were soon released when the accepted the act with the proviso "as far as the law of God allows."

The following year Father Houghton was again arrested when he, Saint Robert Lawrence, and Saint Augustine Webster went to Thomas Cromwell to seek an exemption from taking the oath required in the Act of Supremacy. He, as the first of hundreds to refuse to apostatize in favor of the crowned heads of England, gave a magnificent example to his monks and the whole of Britain of fidelity to the Catholic faith.

As the sentence of drawing and quartering was read to Father Houghton, he said, "And what wilt thou do with my heart, O Christ?" The three were dragged through the streets of London, treated savagely, and then hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. After his death, John Houghton's body was chopped into pieces and hung in various parts of London (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney).

John Houghton is depicted as a Carthusian with a rope around his neck, holding up his heart (Roeder).
Profile

Graduated from Cambridge with degrees in civil and canon law. Ordained in 1501 and served as a parish priest for four years. Carthusian monk, doing his noviate in the London Charterhouse, and making his final vows in 1516. Prior of the Beauvale Carthusian Charterhouse in Northampton, England. Prior of the London Charterhouse.

In 1534 he was the first person to oppose King Henry VIII‘s Act of Supremacy. Imprisoned with Blessed Humphrey Middlemore. When the oath was modified to include the phrase “in so far as the law of God permits”, John felt he could be loyal to Church and Crown; he and several of his monks signed the oath, though with misgivings. Father John was released, and a few days later, troops arrived at the chapter house and forced the remaining monks to sign the modified oath.

On 1 February 1535, Parliment required that the original, unmodified oath be signed by all. Following three days of prayer, Father John, with Saint Robert Lawrence and Saint Augustine Webster, contacted Thomas Cromwell to seek an exemption for themselves and their monks. The group was immediately arrested and thrown in the Tower of London. True to his Carthusian vow of silence, John would not defend himself in court, but refused to co-operate or sign anything. The jury could find no malice to the king, but when threatened with prosecution themselves, they found John and his co-defendants guilty of treason.

He became the first person martyred under the Tudor persections, dying with Blessed John Haile and three others. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.

Born

THE PROTOMARTYR, ST JOHN HOUGHTON

St John Houghton, the protomartyr of the English Reformation, was born in Essex in 1487. It is believed that he graduated from Cambridge University with degrees in civil and Canon Law. His minor gentry parents had arranged a very good marriage for him but John felt drawn to the priesthood. Because of their opposition to his choice, John had to go into hiding to pursue his vocation. He was prepared for ordination by a pious priest with whom he took lodging.


After ordination John served as a parish priest for several years then he entered the Carthusian novitiate in London. About 1516 he was professed at the Charterhouse in London. For a short time John was prior of Beauvale Charterhouse in Northampton and then prior of the London Charterhouse.

Storm clouds gathered when, in 1534, King and Parliament decreed that all had to take an oath upholding the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and swearing that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon had been invalid. This was known as the Act of Succession because it obliged the oath-taker to acknowledge that Anne’s children would be the rightful and sole heirs to the throne. John Houghton refused to take the oath and he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. When the words “so far as it is lawful” were added to the decree, John felt able to take the oath, though still with some misgivings.

The situation worsened in 1535 when King Henry and Parliament introduced the Oath of Supremacy, which declared Henry to be the Supreme Head of the Church in England. Not to take the oath was deemed High Treason! For various reasons, (mostly terror of the tyrant King) some other orders and clergy acquiesced to this demand. Augustine Webster and Robert Lawrence, the Carthusian Priors of Axholme and Beauvale Charterhouses, travelled to London to discuss this state of affairs with John. Following three days of prayer, they contacted one of the King’s toadies, Thomas Cromwell, seeking exclusion, for themselves and the monks under them, from having to take the oath. The three were ordered to take the oath but they refused outright. On 20th April 1535 they were arrested and conveyed to the Tower, via Traitors’ Gate.

Under interrogation by Thomas Cromwell, John Houghton and his companions said that they were ready to consent to all that the law of God would permit. Cromwell, wanting total submission, declared; “I admit no exception. Whether the law of God permits it or no, you shall take the oath without any reserve whatsoever, and you shall observe it too.”

When the Carthusians pointed out that the Act was contrary to what the Catholic Church taught, Cromwell replied; “I care nothing for what the Church has held or taught. I will that you testify by solemn oath that you believe and firmly hold what we propose to you to profess; that the king is Head of the English Church.” The fate of the faithful monks was sealed!

The priests came to trial and twice the jury refused to condemn them, despite threats that if they failed to find in favour of the king they would suffer the same fate as the priests. It was only when Cromwell himself came in person and intimidated them that, for fear of their own lives, the cowed jury returned a guilty verdict against John Houghton and his companions. They were sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, the usual sentence for those convicted of High Treason.

On Tuesday, 4th May 1535, the condemned priests were dragged to Tyburn. John Houghton was the first of the *five to suffer, making him the protomartyr of the Reformation in England. The executioner begged his pardon and John embraced him. As he stood on the cart below the gallows, John was asked again to submit to the king before it was too late. The holy monk replied; “I call on Almighty God to witness, and I beseech all here present to attest for me on the dreadful danger of judgement, that, being about to die in public, I declare that I have refused to comply with the will of His Majesty the King, not from obstinacy, malice, or a rebellious spirit, but solely for fear of offending the Supreme Majesty of God. Our Holy Mother the Church has decreed and enjoined otherwise than the king and Parliament have decreed. I am therefore bound in conscience, and am ready and willing to suffer every kind of torture, rather than deny a doctrine of the Church. Pray for me, and have mercy on my brethren, of whom I have been the unworthy Prior.”

The barbaric sentence was carried out in full. The rope was placed around the martyr’s neck, the cart pulled away and he was left to hang but briefly. Then still alive and fully conscious, he was cut down and disembowelled. He was heard to exclaim; “Oh most holy Jesus, have mercy upon me in this hour!” Still alive as the executioner tried to rip his heart out, it was reported that the victim was heard to murmur; “Good Jesu, what will ye do with my heart?” John Houghton was then decapitated and his poor body quartered. His head was displayed on a pike on London Bridge and his quarters were hung in prominent places as a deterrent to any who would be so foolish as to question the wicked king and his contemptible Parliament. One quarter, including an arm, was suspended above the gate of the London Charterhouse. It was a most grisly and potent warning of things to come for, although John Houghton was the first, many more would follow.

On 9th December 1886, John Houghton was beatified by Pope Leo XIII. Eighty-four years later, on 25th October 1970, John Houghton was canonised by Pope Paul VI as one of the FORTY MARTYRS OF ENGLAND AND WALES.

*John Houghton and the two other Carthusian Priors, Augustine Webster and Robert Lawrence, were executed with Bridgettine monk, Richard Reynolds and secular priest, John Hale, who also refused to take the Oath of Supremacy.