Saint of the Day – 27 February – Blessed Mark Barkworth OSB (c 1572–1601) Priest Martyr. Born in c 1572 in Lincolnshire, England and died by being hung, drawn and quartered on 27 February 1601 at Tyburn, London, England. Also known as – George Barkworth and Mark Lambert. Additional Memorials – 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai, 1 December as one of the Martyrs of Oxford University.
Mark was born around 1572 at Searby, Lincolnshire and was raised as a Protestant. He studied for a time at Oxford and was received into the Catholic Church at Douai in 1593, by Father George, a Flemish Jesuit and entered the College there with a view to the Priesthood. He matriculated at Douai University on 5 October 1594
Due to an outbreak of the Plague in France, Mark was sent to Rome and thence to the Royal College of St Alban in Valladolid, Spain, to complete his studies. On 28 December 1596, he he entered the English College in Spain.
On his way to Spain, Mark had a vision of St Benedict, who told him he would die a Martyr, in the Benedictine habit. While at Valladolid, he made contact with the Benedictine Order.
He was Ordained Priest at the English College some time before July 1599, whereafter, he set out for the English Mission, to assist and support the recusant Catholics there (from the Latin recusare (to refuse), was the state of those who remained loyal to the Catholic Church and refused to swear allegiance to the Queen as the head of the protestant church), together with Father Thomas Garnet. On his way he stayed at the Benedictine Monastery of Hyrache in Navarre, where his wish to join the Order was granted, by his being made an Oblate with the privilege of making profession at the hour of death.
After having escaped from the hands of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, he was arrested on reaching England and thrown into Newgate Prison. At this time, it was considered treason to be a Catholic Priest in England. He was imprisoned for six months and was then transferred to Bridewell Palace being used as a Prison. There, he wrote an appeal to Robert Cecil, a Member of Parliament and signed it “George Barkworth” but it seems, to no avail.
Mark, described as always cheerful and brave, showed his fearlessness at his legal enquiries, where he was reported to behave with joy, fearlessness and frank gaiety. Having been condemned by a formal jury verdict, he was thrown into “Limbo,” the horrible underground dungeon at Newgate, where he is said to have remained “very cheerful,” encouraging and praying with those in the prison. He remain joyful, no matter what horrors he encountered even unto death.
Mark was executed at Tyburn with the Jesuit Priest, Blessed Father Roger Filcock and Saint Anne Line (a lay Widow who sheltered and hid Priests and assisted fellow Recusants), on 27 February 1601.
He sang, on the way to Tyburn, the Paschal Anthem: “Hæc dies, quam fecit Dominus, exultemus et lætemur in ea” – “This is the day, the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” On his arrival, he kissed the robe of St Anne, who was already dead, saying: “Ah, sister, thou hast got the start of us but we will follow thee as quickly as we may” and told the people watching, that Pope St Gregory the Great had sent the Benedictine Monks to evangelise England, saying “I am come here to die, being a Catholic, a Priest and a religious man, belonging to the Order of St Benedict – it was by this same Order, that England was converted.”
Mark was said to be “a man of stature, tall and well proportioned, showing strength. The hair of his head brown, his beard yellow, somewhat heavy eyed.” He suffered in the Benedictine Habit, under which he wore a hair-shirt. It was noticed that his knees were, like St James’ – hardened by constant kneeling and an apprentice in the crowd, picking up his legs, after the quartering, called out: “Which of you Gospellers can show such a knee?!” Contrary to usual practice, the quarters of the Priests were not exposed but buried near the scaffold.
Mark was Beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929.
The Painting above is in Ushaw College, County Durham, England (a former Seminary which, since Vatican II, was another Seminary which shut its doors, one of the many hundreds) and commemorates the Catholic Martyrs of the English Reformation. Among them, shown on the right panel, are the Seminary Priests of Douai College who were Martyred between 1577 and 1680. Some 158 in total were killed by the State during that period for daring to minister to Catholics or harbour Priests.
“Joy in the Lord because the victory won by Christ’s Confessors predominates over earthly sorrow at the grievousness of their suffering.” – William Cardinal Allen, Founder of Douai College.