Saint of the Day – 28 August – St Edmund Arrowsmith S.J. (1585 – 1628) Priest & Martyr – born in 1585 at Haydock, Lancashire, England as Brian Arrowsmith, his confirmation name was Edmund and he preferred to use it – died by being hanged, drawn and quartered on 28 August 1628 at Lancaster, England. Additional Memorials – 25 October as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, 7 August as one of the Lancashire Martyrs and 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai.
The main source of information on St Edmund is a contemporary account written by an eyewitness and published a short time after his death. This document, conforming to the ancient style of the “Acts of Martyrs” includes the story of the execution of another 17th-century Recusant martyr, Blessed Richard Herst (died 1628).
Bryan Arrowsmith was born at Haydock, Lancashire, England, in 1585, the eldest child of Robert Arrowsmith, a yeoman farmer, who had served in Sir William Stanley’s regiment which fought for Spain in the Low Countries. His mother was Margery Gerard, a member of the Lancashire Gerard family. Among his mother’s relations was Father John Gerard, who wrote The Diary of an Elizabethan Priest, as well as another martyr, the Blessed Miles Gerard. He was baptised Brian, but always used his confirmation name of Edmund, after an uncle who trained English priests in France. The family was constantly harassed for its adherence to Roman Catholicism. One of his grandfathers died a confessor in prison. On one occasion, as a child, he was left shivering in his night-clothes by the pursuivants, who carried his parents off to Lancaster jail; he and his three siblings were cared for by neighbours
In 1605, at the age of twenty, Edmund left England and went to the English College, Douai, to study for the priesthood. He was soon forced to return to England due to ill health but recovered and returned to Douai in 1607.
He was ordained in Arras on 9 December 1612 and sent on the English mission a year later. He ministered to the Catholics of Lancashire without incident until around 1622, when he was arrested and questioned by the Anglican Bishop of Chester. Edmund was released when King James I of England ordered an amnesty for all arrested priests, in furtherance of negotiations to arrange a Spanish marriage for his son Prince Charles. St Edmund joined the Jesuits in 1624.
In the summer of 1628, Fr Edmund was reportedly betrayed by a man named Holden, who denounced him to the authorities. Arrowsmith ministered to Catholics of Lancashire at the still-standing Arrowsmith House, located in Hoghton before being arrested and questioned on Brindle Moss where his horse refused to jump a ditch. He was convicted of being a Roman Catholic priest in England. He was sentenced to death, and hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster on 28 August 1628. His final confession was heard by Saint John Southworth (1592-1654) Martyr, who was imprisoned along with Edmund.
Edmund Arrowmith’s beatification occurred in 1929. He was canonszed as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI in 1970. His hand was preserved and kept by the Arrowsmith family as a relic until he was beatified and it now rests in the Catholic Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield (see images below). Stonyhurst College retains the small trunk of vestments and equipment which he carried from house to house.
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