Southworth, John, St.
SOUTHWORTH, JOHN, ST.
Priest, martyr; b. Lancashire, 1592; d. Tyburn June 28, 1654. He belonged to the family of Southworths of Sameesbury near Preston. He entered the English College, Douai, on July 4, 1613; was ordained in 1618; and left for the English mission on December 13 the following year. He returned to Douai in March 1624, but in July 1625 left again for England, where he worked for five years in his native Lancashire. In 1627, he was arrested and was imprisoned in Lancaster Castle at the same time as Edmund arrowsmith, whom he absolved on his way to execution on Aug. 28, 1628. He was condemned for his priesthood but reprieved, and was next heard of in the Clink prison, Southwark, in March 1630. His name was included in an order for the banishment of priest prisoners, but it is uncertain whether he left the country. Henceforth his apostolate lay in London, where he showed heroic courage during the plague of 1636 to 1637. With Henry morse he organized the relief for the Catholic poor, who by their religious profession were excluded from the assistance given by the parishes. He worked mostly in the Westminster district, where his activity aroused the jealousy of the curate of St. Margaret's, who in October 1636 secured his arrest and imprisonment in the Gatehouse. There he continued his work for the plague-stricken. He was released in June 1637 but recommitted the following November. His name occurs again among the prisoners in the Clink in June 1640. His movements are obscure between his last release in July that year and 1654, when he was seized in bed, condemned to death, and executed at Tyburn on June 28. The Spanish ambassador conveyed his quartered body to Douai, where it remained in the chapel of the English College until the confiscation of the seminary by the French revolutionary forces. It was then secretly removed, reburied elsewhere in the building, and in 1927 discovered by workmen excavating on the site. After identification it was transferred first to St. Edmund's College, Ware, and after Southworth's beatification on Dec. 15, 1929, to Westminster Cathedral, where it is now exposed for veneration. He was canonized by Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
Feast: Oct. 25 (Feast of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales); May 4 (Feast of the English Martyrs in England).
Bibliography: a. b. purdie, The Life of Blessed John Southworth … (London 1930). e. e. reynolds, John Southworth … (London 1962). r. challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, ed. j. h. pollen (rev. ed. London 1924). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints 2:662–664.