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Thomas Woodhouse

Martyred June, 1573

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Thomas Woodhouse, BLESSED, martyr, suffered at Tyburn 19 (not 13) June, 1573, being disembowelled alive. Ordained in Mary’s reign, he was a Lincolnshire rector for under a year, and in 1560 acted as a private tutor in Wales. On May 14, 1561, he was committed to the Fleet, London, having been arrested while saying Mass. For the rest of his life he remained in custody, uncompromising in his opposition to heresy, saying Mass in secret daily, reciting his Office regularly, and thirsting for martyrdom; but treated with considerable leniency till on November 19, 1572, he sent the prison washerwoman to Lord Burghley’s house with his famous letter. In it he begs him to seek reconciliation with the pope and earnestly to “persuade the Lady Elizabeth, who for her own great disobedience is most justly deposed, to submit herself unto her spiritual prince and father”. Some days later in a personal interview he used equally definite language. Confined then by himself he wrote “divers papers, persuading men to the true faith and obedience”, which he signed, tied to stones, and flung into the street. He was repeatedly examined both publicly and privately. Once, when he had denied the queen’s title, someone said, “If you saw her Majesty, you would not say so, for her Majesty is great”. “But the Majesty of God is greater,” he answered. After being sentenced at the Guildhall either in April or on June 16, he was taken to Newgate. He was admitted to the Society of Jesus in prison, though the Decree of the Cong. of Rites, December 4, 1886, describes him as a secular priest. He is not to be confused with Thomas Wood (q.v.).

JOHN B. WAINEWRIGHT


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