Saint John Stone - 25th October

St. John Stone was a religious who chose to remain truthful to Peter although faced by a real danger to his life. John was a religious of the English Augustinian Province. He lived during turbulent times in which Catholics – after the Catholic faith was abandoned by Henry VIII on the establishment of the Anglican church in 1534 – it was not easy to retain full faith with Peter’s successor. Circumstances required courage and stamina so that Catholic Christians, especially religious and priests, would remain faithful to the faith of the successors of the apostles.

The religious had three choices: to take the oath of loyalty and to abandon religious life; to leave the country; or to be handed over to be judged until death. John Stone, a courageous man, chose to remain faithful until the end. He was prior at Canterbury when on 14 December 1538 the order came for the members of the Augustinian community to submit themselves to the oath of loyalty to the English crown. Some of the friars, being fearful or because they hoped that the situation would become better, submitted themselves. However, John remained determined not to sign with the result that, after a period in prison, he was taken to be judged by Thomas Cromwell. He remained imprisoned for about one year during which time many thought that he would change his mind.

 Together with the harsh conditions in which he was held, he himself added more penances so that he would ready himself for the great day! That day came about just two days after Christmas of 1539. John Stone was led to the gallows where many other martyrs had already given their life to Christ. After hanging, his body was cut in pieces and was cooked in a large container. In that way his persecutor wanted to remove all marks and signs of a body that had given its life to Christ, in such a manner that there would be no remains left for devotion by Catholics.

John Stone was beatified in1886 and many years later, exactly on 25 October 1970, Paul VI canonized him along with 39 other English martyrs, a large group of priests, religious and lay persons who had remained faithful to Christ. John Stone was not the only one to remain faithful to Peter amongst the Augustinians because we know of others who, more or less, experienced the same suffering. During his canonization, Paul VI expressed with these words that remain applicable to current times: “Our time needs Saints, more especially like those who gave the greatest evidence of their love towards Christ and his Church .... Like the shedding of Christ’s blood, the offering made by martyrs in imitation of Christ’s own sacrifice, a source of life and fertile spirituality for Christ and all the world ..... The martyrdom of Christians is an expression and sign of the highest order of this love, not because the martyr remains faithful with his love until blood is shed, but also because such a sacrifice reflects an even greater and noble love, that is for the love of He who created us and redeemed us”.

Fr Josef Sciberras osa

© 2024 All Rights Reserved.