Franciscan Priest and Martyr † 1538
John Forest joined the Observant Franciscans in 1491. A Doctor of Divinity at Oxford, he taught there, and at different times was Guardian at Greenwich, Minister Provincial, and confessor to Katherine of Aragon. His writing and preaching against the Act of Supremacy led to his arrest in 1534 but he was released two years later. He was re-arrested and on 22nd May 1538 and was burnt at the stake after having to listen to an inordinately long sermon by Latimer. He was beatiﬁed by Pope Leo X III on 9th December 1886.
A letter from Blessed John Forest in prison to the Queen
Most serene Princess, my sovereign Queen, and my Daughter in Jesus Christ ‐ Your majesty’s servant delivered to me your most gracious letter, which was not only a great joy and consolation to me, but also a fresh encouragement to patience and constancy in this my afﬂiction and continual expectation of death; for though I plainly see that not only all perishing goods, but likewise all the miseries and evils of this world, are to be despised for the future glory which will be revealed in us if we ﬁght a good ﬁght, yet I find my soul ‐ which (as ‘tis usual with human nature on the like occasions) was somewhat heavy and pensive on the near view of death, and not without some fear and solicitude on the consideration of its own unworthiness and frailty ‐ is now enlivened by those most pious expressions of your great charity, and wonderfully animated in the contempt of all torments, and inspirited with a fresh fervour in the hopes and contemplation of future joys. My sovereign lady and well-beloved daughter, may Jesus Christ reward your goodness with eternal glory and bliss for this consolation! And I do most earnestly beseech you to recommend my approaching sufferings, conﬂict, and agony to the Divine mercy, and to assist me therein by your continual prayers. And for the rest, I do most humbly entreat you not to doubt of my constancy, nor to be troubled for the grievousness of the torments appointed for me; for it does not become my grey hairs to be disturbed in God’s cause with such childish bugbears; it does not become a man to ﬂy from death basely after he has lived sixty‐four years; much less does it become a religious man not to love God and with his utmost endeavours aspire to heavenly things after he has been for four and forty years in the habit of Saint Francis, learning and teaching the contempt of all that is earthly. I will be mindful of you, my sovereign lady and daughter in Christ, both in this life and in the next, and will never cease from praying to the God of mercy to give you, according to the greatness of your sorrows, all grace and comfort. In the meantime, vouchsafe to pray most earnestly for me, your devoted servant and beadsman, especially at that hour when you shall understand I am to be labouring under those dreadful torments prepared for me. I presume to make you a poor present of my beads, having, as ‘tis given out, but three days to live on earth.
God our Father,
you called Blessed John Forest
to vindicate the authority of your Church
by his life and by his death.
Through his prayers
may our we be gathered once again
to celebrate the same sacraments under one Pastor.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.