Feast 28th May
Like Blessed Robert Johnson, Blessed John Shert is commemorated as one of the Martyrs of London of 1582, having been hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on fabricated charges of treason.
He was born in Shert Hall near Macclesfield, Cheshire, and graduated at Brazenose College, Oxford, in 1586. He taught as a teacher in London before he left for the continent to train as a priest, dissatisfied with the established Anglican religion. Ordained in the English College, Rome, he returned to England in 1579, and worked in London and Cheshire for two years before he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London on 14th July 1581.
He was one of 20 who stood trial in Westminster Hall, London, for treason in the fictitious “Rome and Rheims Plot” against Queen Elizabeth I. Although he could amply demonstrate that he was in England when the plot was allegedly hatched he, like all the other priests, was convicted
He was the second of three priests to die at Tyburn on 28th May 1582 and was made to watch as the first, Blessed Thomas Ford, was butchered, shouting with arms outspread: “O happy Thomas! You have run that happy race. You blessed soul, pray for me.”
When it was his turn to die, Blessed John rejected an invitation from the Sheriff to request the Queen’s forgiveness on the grounds that he was guilty of no offence. He also refused an offer of clemency if he admitted treason with the words: “Should I for saving this carcass condemn my soul? God forbid!”
He did, however, acknowledge Queen Elizabeth as the legitimate English sovereign but not as the supreme governor of the Church in England. “She is not nor cannot be, nor any other, but only the supreme pastor,” he said.
To the crowd baying for his blood he left the admonition: “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church).
The Catholic high school in Crewe was originally named in honour of Blessed John Shert but changed to St Thomas More when it became a comprehensive.
Sources: Nine Martyrs of the Shrewsbury Diocese by Kevin Byrne, Butler’s Live of the Saints, and Memoirs of Missionary Priests by Bishop Richard Challoner.
(Photo: St Gabriel News and Media)