Saint of the Day – 15 March – Blessed William Hart (1558-1583) Priest Martyr, Missionary. Born in 1558 at Wells, Somerset, England and was Martyred on 15 March 1583 at York, North Yorkshire. by being hung, drawn and quartered. He was just 25 years old! Additional Memorials – 29 October as one of the Martyrs of Douai, 1 December as one of the Martyrs of Oxford University.
Our Martyr was born as a Protestant and whilst studying at Lincoln College, Oxford University, he converted to Catholicism, He proceeded to Douai at Rheims and then to Rome, where he was Ordained in 1581.
On returning to England he worked in Yorkshire, frequently visiting imprisoned Catholics, providing comfort , the Sacrament and whatever assistance he was able to give. He was present at the Mass at York Castle at which William Lacy was captured and escaped by somehow climbing over the wall and wading to chin height, through the deep moat.
William was betrayed by an apostate Catholic on Christmas Day, 1582 and thrown into an underground dungeon, where he was secured in double irons. After examination before the Dean of York and the Council of the North, he was arraigned at the Lent Assizes.
The account of his trial states that he was arraigned on two counts. He might have been on trial on three, namely:
- Under 13 Eliz. c. 2, for having brought papal writings, to wit his certificate of ordination, into the realm;
under 13 Eliz. c. 3, for having gone abroad without royal licence;
- Under 23 Eliz. c. 1, for having reconciled John Wright and one Couling to the Catholic Church.
On 10 March 1583, William wrote a last letter to his mother:
Farewell To A Mother
The last letter of Blessed William Hart,
to his Protestant mother.
“Most dear and loving mother,
Seeing that by the severity of the laws, by the wickedness of our times and by God’s holy ordinance and appointment, my days in this life are cut off, of duty and conscience I am bound (being far from you in body but in spirit very near you) not only to crave your daily blessing but also to write these few words unto you.
You have been a most loving, natural and careful mother unto me; you have suffered great pains in my birth and upbringing; you have toiled and turmoiled to feed and sustain me, your first and eldest child and, therefore, for these and all other of your motherly cherishings, I give you (as it becometh me to do) most humble and hearty thanks, wishing that it lay in me to show myself as loving, natural and dutiful a son as you have showed yourself a most tender and careful mother.
But I cannot express my love, [ show my duty, declare my affection, testify my goodwill towards you; so little I am able to do, so much I think myself bound unto you.
I had meant this spring to have seen you if God had granted me health and liberty;but now never shall I see you, or any of yours, in this life again, trusting yet in Heaven to meet you, to see you, to live everlastingly with you.
Sweet mother, why do you weep? Why do you lament? Why do you take so heavily my honourable death? Know you not that we are born once to die and that always in this life we may not live? Know you not how vain, how wicked, how inconstant, how miserable this life of ours is? Do you not consider my calling, my estate, my profession? Do you not remember that l am going to
a place of all pleasure and felicity? Why then do you weep? Why do you mourn? Why do you cry out?
But perhaps you will say, I weep not so much for your death as I do for that you are hanged, drawn and quartered. My sweet mother, it is the favourablest, most honourable and happiest death that ever could have chanced unto me. I die not for knavery but for verity; I die not for treason but for religion; I die not for any ill demeanour or offence I committed but only for my Faith, for my conscience, for my Priesthood, for my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ and, to tell you truth, if I had ten thousand lives, I am bound to lose them all, rather than to break my faith, to lose my soul, to offend my God.
We are not made to eat, drink, sleep, to go bravely, to feed daintily, to live in this wretched vale continually but to serve God, to please God, to fear God, to keep His commandments; which, when we cannot be suffered to do, then rather must we choose to lose our lives than to desire our lives.
(Illegible words) … I [am not] alone in this kind of suffering, for there have of late suffered twenty or twenty-two Priests, just,
virtuous and learned men, for the self-same cause for which I do now suffer. You see Mr. James Fenn and John Body are imprisoned for religion and I daresay they are desirous to die the same death which I shall die. Be contented, therefore, good mother; stay your weeping and comfort yourself that you have borne a son who hath lost his life and liberty for God Almighty’s sake, Who shed His Most Precious Blood for him. I
If I did desire to look for preferment or promotion, credit or estimation in this world, I could do as others do but alas! , I pass not for this trish-trash; I contemn this wretched world; I detest the pleasure and commodities thereof and only desire to be in
Heaven with God, where I trust I shall be before this my last letter come to you.
Be of good cheer, then, my most loving mother and
cease from weeping, for there is no cause why you should
do so. Tell me, for God’s sake, would.you not be glad to
see me a Bishop, a King, or an Emperor? Yes, verily, I daresay you would. How glad, then, may you be to see me a
Martyr, a Saint, a most glorious and bright star in Heaven.
The joy of this life is nothing and the joy of after life is
everlasting and therefore thrice happy may you think
yourself that your son, William, is gone from earth to
Heaven and from a place of all misery, to a place of all
I WISH that I were near to comfort you but because that
cannot be, I beseech you, even for Christ Jesus’s sake,
to comfort yourself. You see how God hath brought me
up and how He hath blessed me many ways; a thousand
times, then, unhappy should I be if for His sake I should
not lose this miserable life to gain that blessed and eternal
life wherein He is.
I can say no more but desire you to be of good cheer because myself am well. If I had lived, I would have helped you in your age, as you have helped me in my youth. But now I must desire God to help you and my brethren, for I cannot. Good mother, be contented with that which God hath appointed for my perpetual comfort and now, in your old days, serve God after the old Catholic manner.
Pray unto Him daily; beseech Him heartily to make you a
member of His Church and that He will save your soul.
For Jesus’ sake, good mother, serve God. Read that Book
that I gave you and die a member of Christ’s Body and
then, one day, we shall meet in Heaven, by God’s grace.
Serve God and you cannot do amiss. God comfort you
Jesus save your soul and send you to Heaven.
Farewell good mother, farewell ten thousand times.
Out of York Castle, the tenth of March, 1583.
Your most loving and obedient son,
He was Martyred at York on 15 March 1583 and Beatified on 29 December 1886 by Pope Leo XIII (cultus confirmed).
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