St. John Roberts, Martyr (AD 1577 – 1610)

[#15 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of December 9 – 15]



HIS week, on December 10, the day of his martyrdom, we remember St. John Roberts. St. John Roberts was a Welsh Benedictine monk and priest. He was born in 1577 at Trawsfynydd, a small village in northern Wales. His parents were John and Anna Roberts of Rhiw Goch Farm. Like many members of the Ordinariates of Anglicanorum cœtibus today, John was baptized as a Protestant.

He attended Oxford in 1595 before leaving after two years to study law at Furnival’s Inn, London. He later traveled in Europe, and converted to Catholicism after visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Also instrumental in his conversion was the influence of a Catholic fellow-countryman. When John converted, he abandoned his legal studies. On the advice of Fr. John Cecil, Roberts moved to Spain to attend the English seminary at Valladolid, before later leaving to become a monk at the local monastery, St. Benedict’s.

After his ordination in 1602, John led an undercover mission of Catholic priests to England, where as an important part of his evangelization he worked with plague victims in London. He was repeatedly caught, imprisoned, and banished to the continent, but Saint John kept returning to England. On his fifth mission to England, he was followed by his former mentor, ex-priest-turned-spy John Cecil (alias John Snowden), who had traitorously compiled a dossier on Roberts for King James I–Yes, the same King James after whom was named the much-celebrated 1611 King James Version of the Bible, which included the deuterocanon and almost verbatim the words of the Lord’s Prayer as they currently appear in the Catholic Novus Ordo Missal of 1970 and the Ordinariates’ Divine Worship Missal of 2013. God uses whom He will for his unsearchable purposes.

Fr. Roberts was arrested by the King’s agents right after he had finished saying Mass, and he was taken to prison while still wearing his Eucharistic vestments. The night before his hanging, a devout Spanish lady arranged for him to have dinner with 18 other Catholic prisoners. During their supper together, St. John was full of joy. He felt self-conscious about this, and asked his hostess, “Do you think I may be giving bad example by my joy?” She said, “No, certainly not. You could not do any better than to let everyone see the cheerful courage you have as you are about to die for Christ.”

On December 10, St. John Roberts – as was traditionally allotted commoners deemed traitors to King and country – was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn. Like our Lord himself by tradition at the time of his crucifixion, John was 33 years old. In jubilant mockery of a ceremony designed to strike fear into the hearts of would-be Catholics, when John saw the fire in which his bowels were to be burned, he said, “Ah, I see you have prepared a hot breakfast for us!”

Usually, the prisoner was disemboweled while still alive, but St. John Roberts was so popular among the poor because of his work with plague victims, that they insisted he be killed first so as not to feel the pain, and the will of the common people prevailed at least that far.

His heart was then held aloft by the executioner, who said, “Behold the heart of the traitor!” But the angry crowd, instead of saying the standard response (“Long live the king!”), said nothing. It was dead silent.

Saint John Roberts, defender of the Poor and the Sick, Martyr for the True Faith, pray for us sinners!


For a weekly dose of English Catholic Patrimony, if your Ordinariate parish or parochial community would like to receive This Week in English Catholic History in advance in single page black-and-white pdf form (perhaps inserted in the bulletin), please contact us at <>, and we will be happy to oblige, gratis

Written by Mr. John Burford, IV and Dr. Foster Lerner of Incarnation Catholic Church in Orlando, Florida; a parish of The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter © 2018.

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John (wearing purple tie, above) is the founder and owner of Magnolia Prep, an SAT and ACT tutoring business with branches in several major US cities. Foster (wearing golden tie, above) holds a Doctorate in Medicine from  Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, and is currently pursuing post-graduate studies in medicine.

john roberts

From Sir John Betjeman –

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Heads Up: Obligatory No Meat this Friday for Canonical Members of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter

In one of the few deviations from the extremely minimal fasting requirements of Roman Catholics in the United States and Canada, Ordinariate Catholics of POCSP — on pain of grave sinmust abstain from meat (like the Fridays in Lent for all Roman Catholics) this Friday, December 7th, 2018. No alternative penance (as is required for other Roman Catholics on this day if they choose not to abstain) is permitted. (I cannot speak to the situation of Ordinariate Catholics in OLW and OLSC Ordinariates, though if readers know with certainty, please comment). See POCSP Ordo:

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We have come to the Ember Days of this season, which — along with the ministry of Instituted Acolyte, First Evensong on the evening before Feasts rather than just Solemnities, and other excellent Traditions — the Ordinariates are bringing back into the common practice of the Latin Church. Spread the word in your parochial communities, and be sure we all can fully share in this joyful but truly penitential time, when we recall the Lord’s first coming, yes, but much more, the End of Time, when He shall come in awesome Glory and Power to be our Judge.

UPDATE: Steven Rabanal, Instituted Acolyte writes:

‘”From the Chancery: We can eat meat after 4pm today. The solemnity trumps Ember Friday.’

However, of course, this is likely not due to technicalities of canon law but because the bishop permits it.”

I aplogise my comment below was in error. You’re good to go on your meats after 4pm today.


The Last Judgment, Stefan Lochner, c. AD 1435

A day in a life of a hospital chaplain

47574762_10215777411619948_2460588675138846720_nMany of our Ordinariate priests work as hospital chaplains for their local dioceses, perhaps because their new Ordinariate communities cannot fully support them financially or for other reasons.  One of our priests in Ottawa is a full time hospital chaplain, and so is our priest in Toronto.  It is demanding but meaningful work.

Fr. Christopher Stainbrook, pastor of St. John Vianney Ordinariate parish in Cleburne, Texas, posted the following reflection, with the photo above on Facebook and I asked if I could share them on this blog.  Thank God for hospital chaplains!

My “On Call” Monday yesterday made me a bit reflective this morning. Three calls: First an 81 year old lady in the ICU. Two adult daughters weeping quietly, and a respectful cleaner who paused in her duties and softly joined in the responses.

Then (at the County Hospital) a 18 year old girl who was in a terrible automobile accident. Large family in the ICU waiting room. Mother and her daughter’s boyfriend, (who was in the same accident, and also a patient at the hospital as well), in a hospital gown and wheelchair, waiting for me in the girl’s room. Three nurses/aides by the door who joined in the responses. 

And the third Hospital Call, an unconscious (sedated) man in the Hospice Unit (at yet another hospital) alone in his room with soft music on the radio. No one present but me, him, and the host of heaven looking on.

The old, the young, the forgotten – each receiving the full and ancient rites and sacraments for the dying which Holy Mother Church provides for all her children. Deo Gratias!


Pope Adrian IV (c. AD 1100 – 1159)

[#14 in the series This Week in English Catholic History: Week of December 2 – 8]



HIS week, on December 4, the anniversary of his election as Pope, we remember Pope Adrian IV. Pope Adrian IV is the only Briton ever elected Pope.

Pope Adrian IV was born Nicholas Breakspear, son of Robert Breakspear, in Abbotts Langley, England. Robert later became a monk at St. Albans. Nicholas was refused admission to his local monastery, so he traveled to France and became a canon regular at St. Rufus monastery near Arles. He eventually became prior, then abbot in 1145. Continue reading

Two New Ordinariate Chant Projects

Over at The Acolyte’s Tool Box, news of a new chant project for the Ordinariates.

Steven Rabanal writes:

I am excited to announce two new chant projects in progress for use in the Personal Ordinariates for Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony. One is for priests and one for choristers.

The first project is one started very recently by myself and some friends. Many Catholics are familiar with the common tone the priest uses to chant the preface, the solemn tone, found here: This is only one of three tones traditionally used in the Roman Rite. The Missale Romanum, the missal used for the Tridentine Mass, gives three tones to use for the preface: the ferial tone, the solemn tone, and the more solemn tone (titled “in praefatio tono solemniori”). The Anglican Missal adapts the ferial and solemn tones to English, however, I have not found adaptations of the more solemn tone, so this is a project I wanted to do for a few months now and just begun.


The second project is being done by James Scott. He is creating an English Gradual for the Ordinariates in the style of the Plainchant Gradual by the Rev. G.H. Palmer, Mus. Doc. and Francis Burgess. Although the Plainchant Gradual is currently in use in Ordinariate parishes, those who use them regularly will know that the texts do not match up all the time with Divine Worship. His project will set these traditional melodies to the text of Divine Worship, and he hopes to eventually set the entire missal. He is currently looking for trial participants and can be contacted at ordinariatechants at gmail dot com.

Go on over for the entire post, that includes audio and visual.