Like many, I use the Universalis App on my phone to pray the “Prayer of the Church.” It tells me that today is the Feast of St Simon Stock, St Brendan and St John Stone. As you know John Stone is a local martyr and we have a statue of him in our martyrs chapel.
There is no mention of St John Stone in our Diocesan calendar but I thought we could reflect a little on his relevance to us, especially as he was a Augustinian Friar here in Canterbury and at great expense they build a scaffold at the most striking landmark of the city, the Dongeon, now called the Dane John where all could see his execution.
On 14 December 1538 the Bishop of Dover Richard Yngworth had visited Canterbury and called on the Augustinian friary with an order to close it down as part of the dissolution of monasteries in England. As each friar was expelled he had to sign two documents: one acknowledging the king as supreme head of the church in England, and another declaring their surrender of their friary to be voluntary.
John Stone alone among his brothers refused to sign, and spoke in clear terms of his objections to the king’s claims over the Church. He was found guilty of Treason and hung, drawn and quartered most probably on 27th December 1539. Being a traitor his head and body were exhibited at the entrance to the city for everyone observing as a warning to other rebels. “Behold I close my apostolate in my blood, in my death I shall find life, for I die for a holy cause, the defence of the Church of God, infallible and immaculate”, Stone said as the executioners prepared to do their work.
I believe it was only through the grace of God that he was able to stand alone and not go with the crowd it was faithful to his conscience. Let pray that we may always have the strength to be true to what we know to be right and not be swayed by the opinions of others.
By the way, according to different sources his feast is on 12th May or 25th October.