Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Saint John Houghton, O.Cart., (c. 1486-London, 4 May 1535) was a Carthusian hermit and Catholic priest and the first English Catholic martyr to die as a result of the Act of Supremacy by King Henry VIII of England. He was also the first member of his Order to die as a martyr.
Houghton, along with the other two Carthusians, Fr. Reynolds, and John Haile of Isleworth, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 4 May 1535.
The three priors were taken to Tyburn in their religious habits. From his prison cell in the Tower, St. Thomas More saw the three Carthusian priors being dragged to Tyburn on hurdles and exclaimed to his daughter: "Look, Meg! These blessed Fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage!" John Houghton was the first to be executed. After he was hung, he was taken down alive, and the process of quartering him began.
Catholic tradition relates that when Houghton was about to be quartered, as the executioner tore open his chest to remove his heart, he prayed, "O Jesu, what wouldst thou do with my heart?" A painting of the Carthusian Protomartyr by the noted painter of religious figures, Francisco Zurbarán, depicts him with his heart in his hand and a noose around his neck. In the Chapter house of St. Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster, in England, there is a painting depicting the martyrdom of the three priors.
After his death, his body was chopped to pieces and hung in different parts of London. He was beatified on 9 December 1886 and canonized on 25 October 1970.