Henry Morse, Priest, SJ M
Feast day: February 1
Born 1595 Brome, Suffolk, England
Died 1 February 1645 Tyburn, London
Beatified 15 December 1929, Rome by Pope Pius XI
Canonized 25 October 1970, Rome by Pope Paul VI, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales
Born in Broome, Suffolk, England, in 1595; died at Tyburn, England, February 1, 1645; beatified in 1929; canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Saint Henry, like so many saints of his period in the British Isles, was a convert to Catholicism. He was a member of the country gentry, who studied at Cambridge then finished his study of law at Barnard's Inn, London. In 1614, he professed the Catholic faith at Douai. When he returned to England to settle an inheritance, he was arrested for his faith and spent the next four years in New Prison in Southwark. He was released in 1618 when a general amnesty was proclaimed by King James.
Henry then returned to Douai to study for the priesthood, and finished his studies at the Venerabile in Rome, where he was ordained in 1623. He was sent on the English mission the following year and was almost immediately arrested after his landing in Newcastle, and imprisoned at York with the Jesuit Father John Robinson. Before leaving Rome he had obtained the agreement of the father general of the Society of Jesus that he should be admitted to the Jesuits in England. His time in prison with Robinson served as his novitiate; thus, he became a Jesuit in 1625. After three years in prison was exiled to Flanders, where he served as chaplain to English soldiers in the army of King Philip IV of Spain.
He returned to England in 1633, where he worked in London under the pseudonym of Cuthbert Claxton. Father Morse made many converts by his heroic labors in the plague of 1636-37. He had a list of 400 infected families--Protestant and Catholic--whom he visited regularly to bring physical and spiritual aid. He devoted service made such an impression that in one year nearly 100 families were reconciled to the Church. He himself caught the disease three times, but each time recovered. At the same time his brothers in faith were urging him to moderate his zeal, the authorities deemed it suitable to arrested Father Morse for his priesthood. They charged him with perverting 560 of his Majesty's loyal subjects 'in and about the parish of St. Giles in the Fields.'
Released on bail through the intercession of Queen Henrietta Maria, he again left England in 1641 when a royal decree ordered all Catholic priests from the country, but returned again from Ghent in 1643. He was arrested in Cumberland eighteen months later while making a sick-call. He escaped with the help of the Catholic wife of one of his captors, but was recaptured and brought to trial. He was convicted of being a Catholic priest at the Old Bailey. On the day of his execution, Father Morse celebrated a votive Mass of the Most Holy Trinity. He was summarily hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. His hanging was attended by the French, Spanish, and Portuguese ambassadors in protest