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Married Saint: St. Philip Howard

The basics:

  • Born June 28, 1557, in London
  • Died October 19, 1595, in the Tower of London
  • Canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI
  • Father of one son
  • Patron of betrayal victims and separated spouses

An image of St. Philip Howard.

In 1970, St. Philip Howard was named by Pope Paul VI one of the “Forty Martyrs of Wales and England.” Yet as with many martyrs, St. Philip’s early life was little indication of the supreme honor he would one day receive, dying for the sake of Christ.

Philip Howard was born in 1557 in an England that was still reeling from King Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England. During Philip’s childhood, “Bloody” Queen Mary was on the throne, a Catholic ruler who rejected the Church of England. Accordingly, Philip was baptized as a Catholic by the archbishop of York. He later pursued his education at Cambridge.

However, times were soon to change. Queen Elizabeth I succeeded Queen Mary, and the country once again became Protestant; more than that, Catholicism was strictly forbidden. As with so many Englishmen at the time, Philip’s father took the family with him back into the Church of England. Change was also happening in Philip’s home: his father remarried a woman with three daughters. At the young age of 14, St. Philip was given in marriage to one of these daughters, Anne; his other two brothers married the other two daughters.

St. Philip’s early years as a husband were none too pious. Climbing the career ladder was forefront in his mind, while family and faith fell by the wayside. His young wife, Anne, stayed admirably devoted to her inattentive and often moody husband, even as he spent more and more time at the Queen’s court, seeking to build his prestige and affluence. And yet it was here at Court that the seeds were sown for Philip’s later years of discipleship.

At the Queen’s court one day, Philip witnessed a theological debate between Anglican theologians and the Jesuit priest St. Edmund Campion. (St. Edmund would be martyred as a result of this dispute.) The words of St. Edmund took three years to penetrate Philip’s heart and mind, but when they did, he was solidly convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith. His conversion led him to devote more time to his wife and to prayer, and to generally amend his life. But it also caught the attention of the Queen who, recall, had outlawed Catholicism. After Philip wrote Her Majesty a letter – with feeling! – about his newfound faith, she had him thrown into the Tower of London.

In the Tower, Philip suffered all of the usual indignities. Confined to a small, unappealing space, and forbidden from seeing his wife or his newborn son, Philip suffered patiently, often repeating Jesus’ words from the Cross “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” Finally, on October 19, 1595, 38-year-old Philip took leave of this life to receive the crown of a martyr. He left his last testament on the wall of his cell, as if to remove any doubt about why and for whom he died: Quanto plus afflictions pro Christo in hoc saeculo, tanto plus gloriae cum Christo in futuro (“The more afflictions we bear for Christ in this world, the more glory we attain with Christ in the world to come.”)

St. Philip Howard, husband and martyr, pray for those who are persecuted because of their faith in Jesus and their love of His Church. Give strength especially to those husbands and wives who are separated from each other under difficult circumstances. Pray in a particular way for the faithful of England, that they may stay rooted in the love of Christ.

St. Philip Howard, pray for us!

3 responses to “Married Saint: St. Philip Howard”

  1. Christopher says:

    Saint Philip Howard is my confirmation saint and I love his story of giving up worldly comfort for the sake of Christ and His Church!

    Saint Philip Howard, pray for us!

  2. CJ says:

    Thank you for the wonderful biography. I recently discovered that I am his distant granddaughter. I feel incredibly blessed to be and descendant of a Saint.

  3. Sara Nur Dawson says:

    My husband has just discovered that Saint Philip Howard is his distant grandfather on his mother’s side, as well as having Blessed Margaret Pole as his 16th great-grandmother, on his father’s. What a bounty and blessing to have such Souls in our family, and that includes you, CJ 🙂 .

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