Blessed Arthur (Francis) Bell

Dates: 1590 – 1643

Arthur Bell was born at Temple Broughton in Worcestershire on 13th August 1590 and brought up in a Catholic family. After beginning his education at his mother, Dorothy's knee, he was sent for its continuation to his maternal uncle, a gentleman in Suffolk. At the age of 24 he went to Saint Omer to study with the Jesuits who then sent him on to Valladolid in Spain. There he was ordained a priest on 14th April 1618.

He discovered the Franciscans through a friend from Oxford who had joined the Friars. Inspired by his life of penitence and simplicity, Arthur sought entry to the Franciscans and on 9th August 1618 was vested with the Franciscan habit, given the name Francis and sent to the newly erected College of St. Bonaventure in Douai to join his compatriots. There he became Guardian and later a Provincial Definitor. In 1632 he became Minister Provincial and attended the Toledo General Chapter in 1633, where the German and Belgian Provinces, including the newly restored Province of England, passed the strict General Constitutions that would govern them until the late 19th Century.

He returned to England in 1634 and spent nine years working to consolidate the presence of the Friars and sustain the faith of his fellow Catholics. He was captured on 7th November 1643 in Hertford. He was tried before Parliament in a trial that lasted from 22nd November to the 8th December. Condemned, he was imprisoned in Newgate prison from where he was taken for execution at Tyburn just three days later. The serenity with which Arthur faced his death convinced his executioner to renounce his Anglicanism and reconcile to the Catholic Church. [1]

Arthur Bell was beatified along with 129 other martyrs of England and Wales on 22nd November 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

[1] Ibid. p. 304-5.

Memorial Day: 12th July