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December 10

St John Roberts - December 10

Saint John Roberts
Priest, Martyr
(1577 – 1610)

What reward can I hope for if I spend upon myself what belongs to the poor? Better give to the poor what is ours, then take from them the little which is their own.”

Saint John Roberts

Saint’s Life Story

John was born around 1577 in Trawsfynydd, Gwynedd, northern Wales the eldest son of his parents, John and Anna. His father was a farmer and a member of Welsh nobility descended from Welsh princes. Although John was baptized as a Protestant, John is said to have received his early education from an elderly man who had been a Cistercian monk at Cymer Abbey just outside Dolgellau. So, as he said later, he was always a Catholic at heart.

Catholic Convert

John pursued his education at Saint John’s College, Oxford, from 1595 to 1597, but left without obtaining a degree. Following this, he studied law at the Inns of Court when he was 21 years old. In 1598, while traveling in France, John had a transformative experience. He joined the Church of Rome at Notre Dame in Paris, converting to Catholicism.

Ordained Priest

Seeking to further his studies and discern his vocation, John entered the English College at Valladolid, Spain, in October 1598. However, he left the College in 1599 to pursue his calling as a Benedictine monk. In 1600, John joined the Abbey of Saint Benedict in Valladolid and became a Benedictine novice at the Abbey of Saint Martin in Compostela, Spain. Later, he was ordained a priest while at the abbey.

Returned to England and Exiled Multiple Times

Following his ordination, John returned to England in the role of a missioner, departing in December 1602 and entering the country in April 1603. Unfortunately, he was arrested in May 1603 and subsequently exiled. Nevertheless, John returned to England in 1604, where he fearlessly dedicated himself to serving plague victims in London. Day and night, John worked to keep the faith alive during a time when Catholics were persecuted mercilessly.

However, John was arrested again and banished from the country. Undeterred, John returned to England once more in 1605. However, during a search for individuals suspected of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, he was found at the home of Mrs. Thomas Percy and arrested yet again. Although he had no connection to the plot, John spent seven months in prison before being exiled once more in July 1606.

During his subsequent exile, he established a house in Douai, France for exiled English Benedictines, which eventually became the renowned monastery of Saint Gregory. It was during this time that he played a pivotal role in the conversion of Blessed Maurus Scott. John also became the first prior of Saint Gregory’s (now Downside Abbey), for the English Benedictine monks.

In October 1607, John returned to England once more. Unfortunately, he was arrested in December and sent to Gatehouse prison at Westminster. However, John managed to escape and spent a year working in London, tirelessly ministering to the faithful. However, he was apprehended once more. Initially, his execution was scheduled for May 1609. Thanks to the intercession of the French ambassador, his sentence was reduced, resulting in yet another exile.

Despite these difficulties, John returned to England a few months later. But, on December 2, 1610, while he was celebrating Mass, John was arrested once more, having been followed by former priest turned spy, John Cecil, who had compiled a dossier on John for James I. John was taken to Newgate prison in his vestments.

When asked, John declared he was a priest and a monk. He explained that he had come to England to work for the salvation of the people. “Were I to live longer,” John added, “I would continue to do what I have been doing.” When he refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, John was condemned to death for the crime of priesthood on December 5, 1610.

The night before John was to be hanged, a good Spanish lady arranged for him to be brought into the company of eighteen other prisoners. They were also suffering for their faith. During their supper together, John was full of joy. Then, he thought perhaps he should not show so much happiness. “Do you think I may be giving bad example by my joy?” he asked his hostess. “No, certainly not,” she replied. “You could not do anything better than to let everyone see the cheerful courage you have as you are about to die for Christ.”

His Martyrdom

Alongside Blessed Thomas Somers, he embraced martyrdom. At the age of thirty-three, John was hanged, drawn, and quartered on December 10, 1610 at Tyburn in London, England. He became so well known for his heroism and charity that there was complete silence at his execution at Tyburn.

His body was initially taken to Saint Gregory’s in Douai, France. However, it disappeared during the French Revolution. An arm was found in the possession of the Spanish royal family before being returned to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where he had served as a novice. Today, two of his fingers are preserved at Downside Abbey and Erdington Abbey.

John is recognized as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, whose Feast Day is celebrated October 25th.

Born:                   Around 1577 in Traswsfynydd, Gwynedd, Wales

Died:                   December 10 (Feast Day), 1610 in Tyburn, London, England

Beatified:           December 4, 1886 by Pope Leo XIII

Canonized:        October 25, 1970 by Pope Paul VI

Feast Day:         December 10, October 25 (as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)

Patron Saint:    None



If you were banished from your country for living out your Catholic faith, would you try to come back. Saint John Roberts did this, not once, or twice or three times, but five times being arrested in England and exiled. He was arrested for a sixth time (in eight years) and finally martyred, a priest who loved his people to the end.

How far are you willing to go to bring your faith and the love of God to those in need around us? Are you willing to risk your lives for it?


Saint John Roberts,

You embraced the call to the priesthood with fervor, serving as a beacon of hope and spiritual guidance for those in need.

We come before you in humble prayer, seeking your intercession and strength.

With your unwavering commitment to the faith and your courage in the face of persecution, inspire us to follow the path of righteousness and dedication to God’s will.

Help us to stand firm in our beliefs, even when faced with trials and tribulations, and to be a source of strength and encouragement for those around us.

May we live lives worthy of our Christian calling.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.

Saint John Roberts, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – 5 Priests unable to serve their flocks as they wanted to

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 10 December – Saint John Roberts (1577-1610) Priest, Martyr

Butler’s Lives Of The Saints Complete Edition – BB. John Roberts and Thomas Somers, Martyrs

Catholic Online – St. John Roberts

Daily Prayers – John Robert

New Advent – Huddleston, G. (1912). St. John Roberts. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Newman Ministry – St John Roberts

Saint John Roberts, Monk and Martyr by David W. Atherton and Michael P. Peyton

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint John Roberts (1577-1610)

Video Link

Saint John Roberts – 10 December – YouTube (Spiritual Gifts Training)