Sunday, October 19, 2008

October 19th: St. Philip Howard

Not a few of Good Queen Bess's favorites came to grievous ends, in one way or another, and for various reasons. Today is the memorial of one of these: St. Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel, who suffered martyrdom in the Tower of London late in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Philip was born in 1557 to Thomas, the 4th Duke of Norfolk and Lady Mary FitzAlan, daughter of the 19th Earl of Arundel. His parents were Protestants, but his mother made her peace with the Church and risked her life hiding priests. At the age of 14, he married Anne Dacre, from whom he was estranged for some years on account of his immorality and dissolution at the court of Queen Elizabeth, which he joined at the age of 18.

But the persecution of Catholic clergy in Elizabethan England had an effect on the young libertine. Present during the trials of priests, including St. Edmund Campion, their faith and perseverance got to the Earl, and worked on him until, in 1584, he reconciled with the Church.

From then on, the world turned against Howard. He planned, with his family, to quietly depart from England in order to be able to practice his faith -- a no-no in those days, especially for a second cousin of the Queen. A servant betrayed him, however, and in April of 1585, he was locked up in the Tower of London. In consequence of the high degree of due process which English Catholics of that time were sedulously afforded, Howard was locked up in the Tower of London, convicted by the Star Chamber of treason, fined £10,000, re-tried in 1488, found guilty of praying for the victory of the Spanish Armada, and sentenced to death.

Philip Howard would never lay his head on the chopping block, like St. Thomas More, or be hanged, drawn and quartered, like St. Edmund Campion. But he would spend a decade in the Tower, where mistreatment would break his health. Through it all, he became known for his courtesy to his cruel jailors, his patience under adversity -- he never knew from one day to the next whether he would be taken out and executed -- and his intense prayer life. He longed to see his wife and son one more time, and petitioned the Queen for permission; but when she offered to grant his request if he would return to Protestantism, he refused. He died October 19, 1495, and was buried in St. Peter ad Vincula, where St. Thomas More was interred.

St. Philip Howard was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, and canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. He is a patron, among other things, of people in difficult marriages and victims of betrayal. For more about St. Philip Howard, read Cardinal Basil Hume's homily at Arundel Cathedral on the 25th anniversary of the canonization of the 40 Martyrs of England, and the 400th of St. Philip's death.

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