Priest and Martyr (d. 1584)
+ James was born in Montacute, Somerset, England, and was educated at Oxford University.
+ Because of his refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging Queen Elizabeth I as the supreme head of the Church in England, his degree was revoked in 1560 and he returned to Somersetshire.
+ James became a tutor, married, and had had children. After being arrested for again refusing to take the oath, he and his family moved back to Montacute. The pressure on James mounted and he was forced to go into hiding for two months, during which time his wife died. After making provisions for his children, he moved to Gloucestershire.
+ In 1579, James traveled to Rheims, France, to prepare for the priesthood and he was ordained in 1580.
+ After returning to England, he was able to minister in secret for four years—including one period in prison—before being arrested one final time.
+ On February 7, 1584, he and Blessed George Haydock were placed on trial for conspiracy and sedition and he was executed with Haydock and three others on February 12. His daughter, Frances, was in the crowd when James was executed and he attempted to blessed her, as best his bound hands would allow.
+ Blessed James Fenn was beatified with George Haydock and other English martyrs in 1929 and he has come to be honored among a group of saints and blessed known as the “Martyrs of Oxford University.”
For prayer and reflection
“The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers… Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”—1 John 3:16, 18
Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed James to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For One Martyr)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.