St. John Houghton

St. John Houghton May 25, 2009

In keeping with the Tudor’s theme, and in my own twist on “Memorial day”, I would like to share this photograph. I took it about a year ago at Tyburn convent in London. It depicts St. John Houghton, prior of the Carthusian charterhouse in London. Houghton was the first Catholic martyr to refuse to sign Henry VIII’s oath of supremacy. The sister who gave the tour of the relics recounted the story. As pressure was applied on the Carthusians, they deliberated their fate. St. John Houghton offered a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. At the elevation, his hands locked up, and he was unable to lower them. At that very point, the monks together opted for martyrdom. Houghton and two other leading Carthusians were hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn in May, 1535. Many others followed. Let us celebrate our own Catholic “Memorial day” by remembering the Catholics who bravely died for the faith.

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  • digbydolben

    This is a very complicated era and one which we have a great deal of difficulty understanding. The reason I know this is because my family was greatly affected by this history; I was brought up to believe that the world would have been much better off if the Spanish Armada had taken England in 1588 (and I’m not sure I don’t still feel that way, considering what America, Protestant England’s spawn, has become). In any case, my own feelings about the era have moderated some, and I’m going to be interested this summer, when I’m in London, to see how the British people respond to the “Henry VIII Exhibit” at the British Library.

    Rather than recommending some television series for an understanding of this complex and very controversial (and still influential) history, I’d recommend, instead, these books:

    http://shop.bl.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/ISBN_9780300108286/87329

    http://shop.bl.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/ISBN_9780007247721/87329

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Secret-Agents-Elizabeths-Forbidden/dp/0060542276

    http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Treason-Story-Gunpowder-Plot/dp/0385471904/ref=pd_sim_b_2

    http://www.amazon.com/Edmund-Campion-Evelyn-Waugh/dp/1586170430/ref=pd_sim_b_5

  • digbydolben

    This is a very complicated era and one which we have a great deal of difficulty understanding. The reason I know this is because my family was greatly affected by this history; I was brought up to believe that the world would have been much better off if the Spanish Armada had taken England in 1588 (and I’m not sure I don’t still feel that way, considering what America, Protestant England’s spawn, has become). In any case, my own feelings about the era have moderated some, and I’m going to be interested this summer, when I’m in London, to see how the British people respond to the “Henry VIII Exhibit” at the British Library.

    Rather than recommending some television series for an understanding of this complex and very controversial (and still influential) history, I’d recommend, instead, these books:

    http://shop.bl.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/ISBN_9780300108286/87329

    http://shop.bl.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/ISBN_9780007247721/87329

    http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Secret-Agents-Elizabeths-Forbidden/dp/0060542276

    http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Treason-Story-Gunpowder-Plot/dp/0385471904/ref=pd_sim_b_2

    http://www.amazon.com/Edmund-Campion-Evelyn-Waugh/dp/1586170430/ref=pd_sim_b_5

  • David Raber

    While those martyred for the Church perhaps did the better thing, let us also remember those martyred by the Church.

  • David Raber

    While those martyred for the Church perhaps did the better thing, let us also remember those martyred by the Church.

  • digbydolben

    Indeed, David, and Thomas More is one who did the “martyring” and Thomas More is still a saint, and Thomas More now knows better and does penance for what he did.

    Do you know these lines from “Little Gidding” in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets? The say it all better than I can:

    Sin is Behovely, but
    All shall be well, and
    All manner of thing shall be well.
    If I think, again, of this place,
    And of people, not wholly commendable,
    Of no immediate kin or kindness,
    But of some peculiar genius,
    All touched by a common genius,
    United in the strife which divided them;
    If I think of a king at nightfall,
    Of three men, and more, on the scaffold
    And a few who died forgotten
    In other places, here and abroad,
    And of one who died blind and quiet
    Why should we celebrate
    These dead men more than the dying?
    It is not to ring the bell backward
    Nor is it an incantation
    To summon the spectre of a Rose.
    We cannot revive old factions
    We cannot restore old policies
    Or follow an antique drum.
    These men, and those who opposed them
    And those whom they opposed
    Accept the constitution of silence
    And are folded in a single party.
    Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
    We have taken from the defeated
    What they had to leave us—a symbol:
    A symbol perfected in death.
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    By the purification of the motive
    In the ground of our beseeching

    In the end, all of those who deeply and earnestly believe they are doing God’s will, be they jihadist or be they Mother Teresa, are of the same party and shall be folded together in God’s mercy and permanent reconciliation. It is a part of life’s most beautiful tragedy.

    • Digby

      If you believe St Thomas More is a saint, then he is no longer doing penance for whatever sins he did in his life; this is not to say he didn’t go through purgatory (indeed, he is one saint many think did — not me, though, but that’s neither here nor there, but I think his martyrdom does fulfill that obligation). His charity has been perfected and he is amongst the saints; there is no more penance.

  • digbydolben

    Indeed, David, and Thomas More is one who did the “martyring” and Thomas More is still a saint, and Thomas More now knows better and does penance for what he did.

    Do you know these lines from “Little Gidding” in T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets? The say it all better than I can:

    Sin is Behovely, but
    All shall be well, and
    All manner of thing shall be well.
    If I think, again, of this place,
    And of people, not wholly commendable,
    Of no immediate kin or kindness,
    But of some peculiar genius,
    All touched by a common genius,
    United in the strife which divided them;
    If I think of a king at nightfall,
    Of three men, and more, on the scaffold
    And a few who died forgotten
    In other places, here and abroad,
    And of one who died blind and quiet
    Why should we celebrate
    These dead men more than the dying?
    It is not to ring the bell backward
    Nor is it an incantation
    To summon the spectre of a Rose.
    We cannot revive old factions
    We cannot restore old policies
    Or follow an antique drum.
    These men, and those who opposed them
    And those whom they opposed
    Accept the constitution of silence
    And are folded in a single party.
    Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
    We have taken from the defeated
    What they had to leave us—a symbol:
    A symbol perfected in death.
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    By the purification of the motive
    In the ground of our beseeching

    In the end, all of those who deeply and earnestly believe they are doing God’s will, be they jihadist or be they Mother Teresa, are of the same party and shall be folded together in God’s mercy and permanent reconciliation. It is a part of life’s most beautiful tragedy.

    • Digby

      If you believe St Thomas More is a saint, then he is no longer doing penance for whatever sins he did in his life; this is not to say he didn’t go through purgatory (indeed, he is one saint many think did — not me, though, but that’s neither here nor there, but I think his martyrdom does fulfill that obligation). His charity has been perfected and he is amongst the saints; there is no more penance.

  • digbydolben

    He mourns what he did to the Bible-mongers to the extent that he regards it as part of his human foolishness that he is glad to have put off for good. If he didn’t, Heaven would not be a place of eternal justice. I’m sorry, but that’s part of what I believe about Heaven; it’s in Dante’s Paradiso.

  • digbydolben

    He mourns what he did to the Bible-mongers to the extent that he regards it as part of his human foolishness that he is glad to have put off for good. If he didn’t, Heaven would not be a place of eternal justice. I’m sorry, but that’s part of what I believe about Heaven; it’s in Dante’s Paradiso.

  • digbydolben

    I should like to point something additional out to folks who might actually read such a tome as God’s Secret Agents and Antonia Fraser’s book on the Gunpowder Plot mentioned above: Both the Babington conspiracy (that netted Mary Stuart) and the Gunpowder Plot itself were largely government “projections” that were encouraged and nursed along by the Cecil-Walsingham spy agencies for the political purpose of demonizing and isolating the Catholic population of Britain.

    Well, the modern American government (and, yes, sadly enough EVEN the Obama regime)seems to be using the same tactics against Muslims:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/23/nyregion/23informant.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all

  • digbydolben

    I should like to point something additional out to folks who might actually read such a tome as God’s Secret Agents and Antonia Fraser’s book on the Gunpowder Plot mentioned above: Both the Babington conspiracy (that netted Mary Stuart) and the Gunpowder Plot itself were largely government “projections” that were encouraged and nursed along by the Cecil-Walsingham spy agencies for the political purpose of demonizing and isolating the Catholic population of Britain.

    Well, the modern American government (and, yes, sadly enough EVEN the Obama regime)seems to be using the same tactics against Muslims:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/23/nyregion/23informant.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all

  • J.Polakovic

    I agree with Henry Karlson: there is no penance for a Saint and martyr as Saint Thomas More. Martyrdom cleans the obligation of Purgatory: always. I assume you also know that he spent a long time in a nasty prison ( more time than any of us would probably withstand ) and that has been a significant purification by itself for any fault or sins he already regretted, as you mention. On top of that, he preferred to face death imposed to him by a tyrant, than being unfaithful to his God. I just hope that we, century 21st Catholics, might prove equally faithful to Almighty God and his Catholic Church in our daily duty as witnesses to the Truth.

  • J.Polakovic

    I agree with Henry Karlson: there is no penance for a Saint and martyr as Saint Thomas More. Martyrdom cleans the obligation of Purgatory: always. I assume you also know that he spent a long time in a nasty prison ( more time than any of us would probably withstand ) and that has been a significant purification by itself for any fault or sins he already regretted, as you mention. On top of that, he preferred to face death imposed to him by a tyrant, than being unfaithful to his God. I just hope that we, century 21st Catholics, might prove equally faithful to Almighty God and his Catholic Church in our daily duty as witnesses to the Truth.

  • C.Gill

    I am writing a novel wherein artifacts from Saint John Houghton plays an important role in the plot. This is what led me to this website. Although I have read many things about this saint, I was surprised to hear the story of his arms being locked during the elevation of the Eucharist. This is a fascinating story. I would love to see more photographs of paintings that include this saint, if anyone has them. Thanks! By the way, if you are really curious, you can check out my (only) published novel, The Perpetual Mystery on Amazon.com

  • C.Gill

    I am writing a novel wherein artifacts from Saint John Houghton plays an important role in the plot. This is what led me to this website. Although I have read many things about this saint, I was surprised to hear the story of his arms being locked during the elevation of the Eucharist. This is a fascinating story. I would love to see more photographs of paintings that include this saint, if anyone has them. Thanks! By the way, if you are really curious, you can check out my (only) published novel, The Perpetual Mystery on Amazon.com