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Saint John Roberts

Saint John Roberts
  • Century: 16th & 17th Century
  • Patronage: -
  • Feast Day: October 25th

St. John Roberts was born in northern Wales, to John and Anna Roberts.  He studied at St. John’s College at Oxford.  He however, left without earning a degree and entered as a law student at one of the Inns of Court.  He traveled throughout the continent and more so, Paris, and through the influence of a Catholic fellow traveler, he was converted to Catholicism.  By the advice of John Cecil, an English Priest, he decided to enter the English College, Douai in 1598.  

He left College the following year for the Abbey of St. Benedict, and was sent to make his novitiate at San Martin Pinario, Santiago de Compostela.  He made his profession towards the end of 1600.  He was ordained and set out for England in December 1602.  Although a Government spy observed him, Roberts and his companions succeeded in entering the country in April 1603, but he was arrested and banished in May.   He soon managed to return to England, and worked among the plague victims in London.  In 1604 while preparing to leave for Spain with four postulants, he was arrested again. Not recognized as a Priest, he was released and again banished but he returned to England, once again.  

In 1605, he was found at the house of Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Percy, who was involved in the Gunpowder Plot.  Although he was not found guilty of being involved, he again was imprisoned in the Gatehouse Prison at Westminster for seven months and then exiled again, in July 1606.  This time he was gone for fourteen months, nearly all of which he spent at Douai where he founded and became the first Prior of a house for English Benedictine Monks, who had entered through Spanish Monasteries.  This was the beginning of the Monastery of St. Gregory at Douai.  

In October 1607, Roberts returned to England.  In December, he was again arrested and placed in the Gatehouse at Westminster.  After several months, he escaped.  He lived in London for about a year, and in May 1609 he was taken to Newgate Prison.  He would have been executed, but the French Ambassador interceded on his behalf, and his sentence was reduced to banishment.  He visited Spain and Douai, but returned to England within the year.  He was captured again on December 2nd, 1610, just as he was concluding Mass.  They took him to Newgate in his Vestments.  On December 5th, he was tried and found guilty under the Act forbidding Priests to minister in England.  On December 10th, he was hanged, drawn, and quartered along with Thomas Somers at Tyburn, London.  His body was recovered and taken to St. Gregory’s at Douai.  He was Beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, and Canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the representative “Forty Martyrs of England and Wales”.  

Practical Take Away

St. John Roberts was a Priest that founded the Monastery of St. Gregory at Douai.  He spent his 35 years on this earth, serving the Church, and for the promotion of the faith.  He traveled extensively to England, assisting the Catholics with Sacramental needs, but was arrested many times, and deported.  Finally, he was captured after concluding a Mass for the people of England, and imprisoned.  He was found guilty and martyred for his faith.  England, at the time, did not allow Priests to minister to the people of England, and he continually provided the Sacraments, always hiding and avoiding being arrested.  His heroic virtue of ministering to God’s people in England cost him his life.  How far are we willing to go to bring our faith, and the love of God to those in need around us?  Are we willing to risk our lives for it?  We venerate him today, seeking his intercession in bringing the faith to those in need.