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James Bell

English priest and martyr (ca. 1520-1584)

Bell, JAMES, priest and martyr, b. at Warrington in Lancashire, England, probably about 1520; d. April 20, 1584. For the little known of him we depend on the account published four years after his death by Bridgewater in his “Concertatio” (1588), and derived from a manuscript which was kept at Douay when Challoner wrote his “Missionary Priests” in 1741, and is now in the Westminster Diocesan Archives. A few further details were collected by Challoner, and others are supplied by the State Papers. Having studied at Oxford he was ordained priest in Mary’s reign, but unfortunately conformed to the established Church under Elizabeth, and according to the Douay MS. “ministred their bare few sacraments about 20 years in diverse places of England”. Finally deterred by conscience from the cure of souls and reduced to destitution, he sought a small readership as a bare subsistence. To obtain this he approached the patron’s wife, a Catholic lady, who induced him to be reconciled to the Church. After some time he was allowed to resume priestly functions, and for two years devoted himself to arduous missionary labors. He was at length apprehended (January 17, 1583-84) and, having confessed his priesthood, was arraigned at Manchester Quarter Sessions held during the same month, and sent for trial at Lancaster Assizes in March. When condemned and sentenced he said to the Judge: “I beg your Lordship would add to the sentence that my lips and the tops of my fingers may be cut off, for having sworn and subscribed to the articles of heretics contrary both to my conscience and to God’s Truth”. He spent that night in prayer and on the following day was hanged and quartered together with Ven. John Finch, a layman, April 20, 1584.

EDWIN BURTON


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