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Henry Morse

(1595—1645) Jesuit


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(1595–1645), Jesuit, priest, and martyr. Born at Brome (Suffolk), Morse studied Law at Barnards Inn (London), was later converted to Catholicism and joined the English College, Douai, in 1614. He returned to England, was in prison for four years in London and then banished. He entered the English College, Rome, was ordained priest and in 1624 returned to England. In 1626 he was arrested again and imprisoned for four years in York. Here he was able to complete his year's novitiate as a Jesuit. In 1633 after a spell as military chaplain in Holland to Spanish troops he was sent back to London where, during the plague of 1636, he ministered to the sick with conspicuous courage and devotion: he appealed successfully for alms for food and medicine, but caught the plague himself. His unexpected recovery was regarded by some as miraculous. At this time the penal laws against Catholics were often ignored, but in 1638 an informer made it his business to tell the authorities that Morse was a priest ordained overseas who seduced the king's subjects from their faith and allegiance. He was tried and found guilty on the first count and imprisoned at Newgate. Queen Henrietta Maria, however, persuaded King Charles I to release him. Morse then had another spell as military chaplain (to Gage's regiment fighting for the Spanish against the Dutch). Then came a period of ministry to recusants in both Cornwall and Cumberland which ended in arrest, escape, and rearrest by Parliamentarian troops at Newcastle. After trial and imprisonment at Newgate he was executed at Tyburn on the strength of his previous conviction nine years earlier. The French, Spanish, and Portuguese ambassadors with their suites were present at the execution of one of the most colourful and adventurous of the English Martyrs, who asserted to the end that he was dying for his religion and that he knew nothing about plots against the king. He died on 1 February 1645 and was canonized by Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Feast: 25: October.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.


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