Saint of the Day – 12 July – Saint John Jones OFM (c 1574 – 1598) Priest and Martyr, Franciscan Friar, Missionary – Born as Griffith Jones c 1574 in Clynog-Fawr, Carnarvonshire, Wales and died by being hanged, drawn and quartered in the early morning of 12 July 1598 at London, England. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who are celebrated on 25 October.
His real name was Griffith Jones but he was variously known as John Jones, John Buckley, John Griffith or Godfrey Maurice Jones. He was born in the ancient parish of Clynnog into a staunch and recusant Welsh Catholic family who stayed true to their faith after the Protestant Reformation.
He entered the Observant Franciscan Convent at Greenwich as a youth. On the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1558, Catholicism was banned so he went to the Continent and was Ordained at the Franciscan Monastery at Pontoise, France. He studied at the English College at Douai. After his Ordination at Rheims in 1585 he returned to the English mission but was captured and imprisoned in Wisbech Castle. He either escaped or was released and about 1592 made his profession as a Franciscan at the Convent of Ara Coeli in Rome, taking the name Godfrey.
His ‘Mission to England’ was approved by Pope Clement VIII and he returned in 1592, fully aware of the gruesome punishments inflicted on Catholic priests.
After two years he was arrested in Staffordshire. In 1596 the priest-catcher Topcliffe had been informed by a spy that John Jones had visited two Catholics and said Mass in their house but it was afterwards shown that these people were in prison when the alleged offence took place. However, he was promptly arrested and severely tortured. He was also cruelly scourged and Topcliffe took him to his house and practised unspeakable barbarities upon him, all of which he endured with great fortitude. He was then imprisoned for nearly two years in the Marshalsea Prison and on 3 July 1598, was tried on the charge of “going over the seas in the first year of Her Majesty’s reign (1558) and there being made a priest by the authority from Rome and then returning to England contrary to statute” (27 Eliz. c. 2) and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
He was executed on 12 July 1598, some two miles outside of London. By this time, the people had grown tired of these hateful spectacles and as the authorities were keen to avoid a riot, the execution was arranged for the early morning. Despite this, a large crowd gathered. The executioner, called untimely from his bed, forgot his ropes. During the delay while he went for them, the condemned man preached to the crowd and explained he was being martyred for his faith, not for disloyalty to his country. The place was St Thomas’s Watering, in what is now the Old Kent Road, at the site of the junction of the old Roman road to London with the main line of Watling Street.
The usual atrocities were carried out; his dismembered remains were fixed on the poles on the roads to Newington and Lambeth (now represented by Tabard Street and Lambeth Road respectively); some were removed by young Catholics, one of whom suffered long imprisonment for this. One of these relics eventually reached the Monastery of Pontoise, where the Martyr had been ordained.
He was declared Venerable by Pope Leo XIII, Beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and Canonised on 25 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI.