Saint of the day – 7 February – Bl Thomas Sherwood LAY MARTYR of the English Persecution under Elizabeth I (c. 1552–1579)
The days of Elizabeth I were difficult and frightening days for the Catholics of England. This was the day of the martyrs, Catholics following in the footsteps of St Thomas More and St John Fisher, who died for their faith. Most of these martyrs were priests, educated and ordained abroad, sent back to England to minister to their flock, declared outlaws and criminals by the government.
Bl Thomas was not a priest and he was not a religious. He had planned to study for the priesthood but had not yet carried out his plan when he was arrested.
He was by profession a wool draper and was associated with other Catholic families, in particular the family of Catholic Lady Tregonwell, in whose home it seems, Mass was heard. The son of Lady Tregonwell, who was a protestant, turned him in to the authorities, who sent him to the Tower of London on 17 November, 1577. There he was tortured in order to discover where he heard Mass, who the priest was and the names of other Catholics with whom he associated.
St Thomas More’s son-in-law, William Roper, tried to send him money for medicine and food but the officer at the Tower would not permit money to be spent on anything but clean straw for him to sleep upon. Blessed Thomas was 27 at the time of his arrest and his brother wrote an account of his sufferings and martyrdom. We also possess the directions given to the lieutenant of the Tower from the privy council, ordering him to obtain information from Thomas on the rack. After his execution, his mother was arrested and put in prison, where she died fourteen years later.
During his terrible sufferings all he said was: “Lord Jesus, I am not worthy to suffer for Thee, much less to receive those rewards which Thou hast promised to Those who confess Thee.” Three weeks after his death it was recorded in the daybook of Douay College, where he was enrolled and awaited: “On the first of March, Mr Lowe returned to us from England bringing news that a youth, named Thomas Sherwood, had suffered for his confession of the Catholic Faith, not only imprisonment, but torture and death itself.”