Blessed Thomas, Henry, Arthur, John and Charles, martyrs in England and Wales, priest, I Order | pray for us | May 4th
During the persecutions of King Henry VIII and his successors in England in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, many Catholics were martyred. Among them were these Franciscan priests. Thomas Bullaker (in religion John Baptist) studied at Valladolid in Spain. He was ordained in 1628 and returned to England where he worked as a priest, often secretly. He was guardian of Oxford and provincial secretary. He was betrayed in 1642 and dragged through the streets of Tyburn where he was hanged, drawn and quartered. Henry Heath was a Protestant who studied at Cambridge before he became a Catholic. He then studied at Douai and became a friar, taking the name Paul of St Magdalene. Moving back to England, he was arrested for being a priest and imprisoned at Newgate. He died a martyr’s death in 1643. Arthur Bell came from a Catholic family and, as the persecutions increased, he fled to the continent. He was ordained at Valladolid in Spain in 1618. Shortly afterwards, he joined the fiars receiving the name, Francis. At Douai, he became guardian and definitor. Returning to England in 1634, he did his best to solidify the Franciscan presence among the suffering. Captured in 1643, he was tried, found guilty and hanged at Tyburn. John Woodcock joined the friars in 1631 with the name, Martin of St Felix and was ordained four years later in Douai. His health was not good but he was allowed to return to England. He was arrested and held in Lancaster Castle and he was hanged in 1646. Charles Meehan belonged to the Irish Province of Franciscans and spent some of 1676 at St Isidore’s College in Rome. Attempting to return to Ireland from the continent where he had been ordained, he was shipwrecked and landed in Wales. He was arrested in 1678 and imprisoned at Denbigh. He went on trial the following year at Ruthin in north Wales where he was condemned and hanged. Charles, as well as Henry, Arthur and John, were among 85 martyrs beatified in 1987 by John Paul II, while Thomas was among 135 martyrs beatified in 1929 by Pius XI.