Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Blessed John Haile

Today is the feast of the Blessed John Haile, vicar of Isleworth and one of the 40 English martyrs, one of the first group of martyrs under the Tudors. This text is from Parish Priests Among Saints: Canonized or Beatified Parish Priests by the Dominican priest, Fr Walter Gumbley, published in the early part of the last century.

Blessed John Haile, martyred under Henry VIII on May 4, 1535, was solemnly beatified by Pope Leo XIII on December 29, 1886. He had long been a priest having, it is stated, been nominated parish priest of Chelmsford as far back as 1492. Thirty-one years later he was presented to the parish of Isleworth, then called Thistleworth, in Middlesex, on August 13, 1521. When Henry VIII openly took his mistress Anne Boleyn as his legal wife, and had her crowned queen, John Haile -- he is sometimes called Hale or Hall -- spoke his mind on the matter in no measured terms to his companions. But in those days of tyranny few confidants could be trusted. Even professed friends were often private enemies and paid spies. In some way the knowledge of the old parish priest's indignation reached government circles, and he was marked down to form one of the first band of priests and religious with whom Henry determined to make a bloody example to the whole realm.

He was accordingly arrested early in 1535 and at the end of April condemned to die a traitor's death in company with four others, namely, three Carthusian priors, Blessed John Houghton of London, Blessed Augustine Webster of Axholme in Lincolnshire, and Blessed Robert Lawrence of Beauvale in Nottinghamshire, and the Bridgettine monk of Sion, Blessed Richard Reynolds. These glorious protomartyrs of the English persecutions, were dragged on hurdles to Tyburn Tree and put to death with all the abominable atrocities which attended the English legal punishment of treason.

It was thus that the parish clergy supplied the most venerable of these five martyrs in the person of Blessed John Haile who must have been in his seventieth year or more.