Saint Alexander Briant, Martyr

2 Corinthians 6:4-10; Psalm 123(124):2-5,7-8; Matthew 5:1-12a

Alexander Briant (or Bryant) was born in Somerset (1556), and entered Hart Hall, Oxford (now Hertford College), at an early age. While there, he became a pupil of Father Robert Parsons which lead to his conversion to the Catholic Church. Having left the university he entered the seminary at Douai in France, and was ordained priest in 1578. He was assigned to the English mission in August of the following year to work as a priest in his own county of Somerset. After working only briefly he was arrested in April 1581 by a group who were searching for Father Parsons. After spending some time in Counter Prison, London, he was taken to the Tower where he was subjected to tortures that, even in Elizabethan England, stand out for their viciousness. The rack master admitted that Briant was “racked more than any of the rest,” and following a public outcry was imprisoned for a few days for cruelty. With six other priests Briant was arraigned, on November 16, 1581, on the charge of high treason, and condemned to death. In a letter to the Jesuit Fathers in England written from prison he says that he felt no pain during the various tortures he underwent, and adds: “Whether this that I say be miraculous or no, God knoweth, but true it is.” He also asked that he might become a Jesuit, having vowed to offer himself should he be released. Accordingly he is numbered among the martyrs of the Society. He was scarcely more than twenty-five years old on 1 December, the day of his martyrdom. He suffered with Edmund Campion and Ralph Sherwin.

Posted in Daily Reflection.