Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors – Venerable Henry Morse, S.J., 1645

Saint Henry MorseArticle

Born of a gentleman’s family in Suffolk, he was converted, as a law student in London at the age of twenty-three, and went abroad to Douay. Returning to England as priest in 1624, he was apprehended on landing at New castle, and cast into prison at York. Being already in ill-health, he suffered much from want and the filth of the place for three years. He found means, however, during this time to be admitted to the Society of Jesus, and laboured with great fruit among the felons and male factors. Banished in 1627, he nearly died from a malignant fever which he caught as camp missioner among the English soldiers on the Continent. In 1636 he returned to minister to the plague-stricken in London. He visited the infected under incredible difficulties. Harassed by the pursuivants, suspected even by good Catholics, he spent his time day and night, as occasion called, in squalid and foetid garrets, and in close contact with every form of the disease. His self-sacrifice was rewarded by numerous conversions. He was himself stricken with the disease, but on recovery he immediately returned to his labours, to be again infected, and when almost dead was brought back to life by receipt of a letter ordering him to rest for awhile.

Soon after his second recovery from the plague, he was committed to Newgate for being a priest and seducing his Majesty’s subjects from the religion by law established, and a certificate was read in court showing that he had perverted 560 Protestants in and about the Parish of Saint Giles in the Fields. For being a priest he was banished in 1641, and again he devoted himself to the English soldiers quartered in Flanders, till in 1643 he returned to the North of England, and there resumed his missionary labours. Apprehended, he was lodged for the night in a constable’s house whose wife was a Catholic and enabled him to escape. About six weeks after, however, God’s will that he should suffer for His Name plainly appeared, for he was recognised, arrested, and shipped from Newcastle for London. At sea he endured much from the barbarous usage of the crew, and was nearly lost with the ship in a violent storm. The martyr’s crown was, however, to be his. Arrived in London, he was committed to Newgate, and, notwithstanding that his brother, a Protestant, left no stone unturned to save his life, he was sentenced to death for high treason on his previous conviction of being a priest. He suffered 1 February 1644.

On 1 February 1645, the day of his execution, he celebrated, early in the morning, a votive Mass of the Blessed Trinity in thanksgiving for the great favour God was pleased to do him in calling him to the crown of martyrdom, having first, according to custom, recited the Litanies of our Blessed Lady and of all the Saints, for the conversion of England. After which he made an exhortation to the Catholics who were present, and, having rested for an hour, said the Canonical Hours, and then visited his fellow-prisoners, and took leave of them with a cheerfulness that was extraordinary. The little space that remained he employed in prayer with a religious of his order, till, being admonished that his time was come, he cast himself on his knees, and, with hands and eyes lifted up to Heaven, gave hearty thanks to Almighty God for His infinite mercy towards him, and offered himself without reserve as a sacrifice to His Divine Majesty. “Come, my sweetest Jesus,” said he, “that I may now be inseparably united to Thee in time and eternity: welcome ropes, hurdles, gibbets, knives, and butchery, welcome for the love of Jesus my Saviour.” At nine he was drawn on a sledge by four horses to Tyburn.

“I am come hither to die for my religion, for that religion which is professed by the Catholic Roman Church, founded by Christ, established by the Apostles, propagated through all ages by a hierarchy always visible to this day, grounded on the testimonies of Holy Scriptures, upheld by the authority of Fathers and Councils, out of which, in fine, there can be no hopes of salvation. Time was when I was a Protestant, being then a student of the law in the Inns of Court in town, till, being suspicious of the truth of my religion, I went abroad into Flanders, and upon full conviction renounced my former errors, and was reconciled to the Church of Rome, the mistress of all Churches. Upon my return to England I was committed to prison for refusing to take the oath of supremacy, and banished. After seven years I returned to England as a priest, and devoted myself to the poor and the plague-stricken.”

“No self-glorification,” here interrupted the Sheriff.

“I will glory only in God,” continued the martyr, “who has pleased to allow me to seal the Catholic faith with my blood, and I pray that my death may atone for the sins of this nation, for which end and in testimony of the one true Catholic faith confirmed by miracles now as ever, I willing die.” Tyburn, 1 February 1645.

MLA Citation

  • Father Henry Sebastian Bowden. “Venerable Henry Morse, S.J., 1645”. Mementoes of the English Martyrs and Confessors, 1910. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 April 2019. Web. 29 July 2021. <>