Bl James Fenn and Companions

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Martyrs. Born in 1540, James Fenn came from Montacute, near Yeovil in Somerset. His brothers John and Robert were both priests. He studied at Corpus Christi College in Oxford where he was known as a fine singer - but he was expelled when he refused to take the oath of supremacy declaring Queen Elizabeth head of the Church. He became a schoolmaster and got married in the village where he was born. The couple had a son and a daughter. The local vicar challenged him for not attending Anglican services and the family was forced to go into hiding. After his wife died suddenly, James travelled to Rheims and studied for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1580. It was very dangerous to be a Catholic in England at that time, but James returned to Somerset to minister to the recusant community there. In 1584, he was captured and accused of a conspiracy to kill the Queen.

On the morning of 12th February 1584, when he was already laid on the hurdle at Tower Gate, he looked up, and recognized his little daughter, Frances, standing in the crowd. She was weeping bitterly, but it was said that James kept his habitual calm and peaceful expression, and gave her his blessing before he was carried away to be executed. Questioned on the accused charge of treason, he reiterated that he had never wished to harm the Queen by so much as a pin-prick and willingly gave all due obedience to her in worldly matters, but not in spiritual matters. Immediately before being hanged, he commended himself and the Queen to God's mercy.

Fenn and his companions were hung, drawn and quartered. Their remains were displayed above the four main gates of London, and their heads were mounted on London Bridge.

James Fenn, George Haydock, John Munden, John Nutter and Thomas Hemerford were beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

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