Forest, John, Bl.

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Franciscan priest, martyr; b. Oxford, England, 1471;d. hanged at Smithfield (London), May 22, 1538. At age 20, Forest was accepted into the Observant Franciscans at Greenwich. He studied theology at Oxford and may have earned a doctorate. He is known as the confessor to Queen Catherine of Aragon, and appears to have been provincial in 1525, when he threatened to excommunicate the brethren who opposed Cardinal Wolsey's legatine powers. The Observants as a whole and Fr. Forest in particular attracted Henry VIII's displeasure by opposing his divorce, although there was an attempted reconciliation in February 1533. Nevertheless, he was imprisoned at Newgate before Fr. William Peyto gave his famous sermon in front of the king at Greenwich (1534). In his confinement Fr. Forest corresponded with the queen and Bl. Thomas abell and wrote a book or treatise against King Henry. When Forest refused to make an act of abjuration before Cranmer at Lambeth (April 8, 1538), he was sentenced to death by hanging and his remains burned. The statue of "Darvell Gatheren," which had been brought from the church of Llanderfel in Wales, was thrown on the pile of firewood; thus fulfilling the popularly believed prophecy that this holy image would set a forest on fire. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on Dec. 9, 1886.

Feast: May 22 (Franciscans). Feast of the English Martyrs: May 4 (England).

See Also: england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of.

Bibliography: r. challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, ed. j. h. pollen (rev. ed. London 1924; repr. Farnborough 1969). j. h. pollen, Acts of English Martyrs (London 1891). j. thaddeus, Life of Bl. John Forest (London 1888); The Franciscans in England 16001859, 15 v. (London 1898).

[k. i. rabenstein]