Friday, 24 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 26.

Tower Of London
"I however maintained I knew no such man. So when they found they could twist nothing out of me either by wiles or threats, they sent me back. But as I passed again through the hall where Master Page was with the others, I looked round from one to another, and said with a loud voice,' Is there any one here of the name of Francis Page, who says he knows me well, and has often come before my window to see me ? Which of all these is he ? I know no such person, and I wonder that any one should be willing to injure himself by saying such things.'

"All this while the gaoler was trying to prevent my speaking, but was unable. I said this not because I had any idea that he had acknowledged that he knew me, but for fear they might afterwards tell him of me what they had told me of him. And so it turned out. For they had told him already that I had acknowledged I knew him, and they had only sent for me then that he might see me go in, intending to tell him I had confirmed all I said before. But now they could not so impose on him. For when he was summoned, he immediately told them what I had said publicly in the hall as I passed through. The men in their disappointment stormed against the gaoler and me, but being thus baffled could not carry out their deception.

" A little later they released Master Page for money, who soon crossed the sea, and after going through his studies in Belgium was made priest 1 Thence he returned afterwards to England and remained mostly in London, where he was much beloved, and useful to many souls. One of his penitents was that Mistress Line whose martyrdom I have above related. In her house he was once taken as I said, but that time he escaped. A little after he obtained his desire of being admitted into the Society, but before he could be sent over to Belgium for his noviceship, he was again taken, and being tried like gold in the furnace, and accepted as the victim of a holocaust, he washed his robe in the blood of the Lamb, and is now in the possession of his reward. And he sees me now no longer detained in the Tower while he is walking by the water of the Thames, but rather he beholds me on the waters still tossed by various winds and storms while he is secure of his own eternal happiness, and solicitous as I hope for mine. Before all this however he used to say that he was much encouraged and cheered by hearing what I said as I passed through the hall, as it enabled him to detect and avoid the snares of the enemy.

" During the time I was detained in the Tower, no one was allowed to visit me, so that I could afford no help to souls by my words; by letter however I did what I could with those to whom I could venture to trust the secret of how they might correspond with me. Once however after John Lilly's release, as he was walking in London streets, two ladies, mother and daughter, accosted him, and begged him if it was by any means possible to bring them where they could see me. He knowing the -extreme danger of such an attempt endeavoured to dissuade them, but they gave him no peace till he promised to open the matter to the gaoler, and try to get him to admit them, as if they were relations of his. Gained over by large promises the man consented ; the ladies had also made a present of a new gown to his wife. They therefore dressing themselves as simple London citizens, the fashion of whose garments is very different from that of ladies of quality, came with John Lilly, under pretence of visiting the gaoler's wife, and seeing the lions that arc kept in the Tower, and the other animals there which the curious are in the habit of coming to see. After they had seen all the sights, the gaoler led them within the walls of the Tower, and when he found a good opportunity introduced them into my room, exposing himself to a great danger for a small gain. When they saw me they could not restrain themselves from running and kissing my feet, and even strove with one another who should first kiss them. For my part I could not deny them what they had bought so dear, and then begged for so earnestly, but I only allowed them to offer this homage to me as to the prisoner of Christ, not as to the sinner that I am. We conversed a little, then leaving with me what they had brought for my use, they returned in safety much consoled, for they thought they should never see my face again, inasmuch as they had heard in the city that I was to be brought to trial and executed.

"Once also Father Garnet sent me similar happy news, warning me in a letter full of consolation to prepare myself for death. And indeed I cannot deny that I rejoiced at the things that were said to me; but my great unworthiness prevented me from going into the House of the Lord. In fact the good Father, though he knew it not, was to obtain this mercy before me; and God grant that I may be able to follow him even at a distance to the cross which he so much loved and honoured. God gave him the desire of his heart; for it was on the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross that he found Him whom his soul loved. On this same feast of the Holy Cross and anniversary day of this holy Father's martyrdom, I received, by his intercession I fully believe, two great favours of which I will speak further at the close of this narration; to which close indeed it behoves me to hasten, for I am conscious that I have been more diffuse than such small matters warranted.

" What Father Garnet warned me of by letter the enemy threatened also by words and acts about that time. For those who had come before with authority to put me to the torture, now came again, but with another object, viz., to take my formal examination in preparation for my trial. So the Queen's Attorney-General questioned me on all points, and wrote everything down in that order which he meant to observe in prosecuting me at the assizes, as he told me. He asked me therefore about my priesthood, and about my coming to England as a priest and a Jesuit, and inquired whether I had dealt with any to reconcile them to the Pope, and draw them away from the faith and religious profession which was approved in England. All these things I freely confessed that I had done; answers which furnished quite sufficient matter for my condemnation according to their laws. When they asked, however, with whom I had communicated in political matters, I replied that I had never meddled with such things. But they urged the point, and said it was impossible that I, who so much desired the conversion of England, should not have tried these means also, as being very well adapted to the end. To this I replied, as far as I recollect, in the following way:

"' I will tell you my mind candidly in this matter, and about the State, in order that you may have no doubt about my intent, nor question me any more on the subject; and in what I say, lo ! before God and His holy angels I lie not, nor do I add aught to the true feeling of my heart. I wish, indeed, that the whole of England should be converted to the Catholic and Roman faith, that the Queen too should be converted and all the Privy Council, yourselves also, and all the magistrates of the realm ; but so that the Queen and you all without a single exception should continue to hold the same powers and dignities that you do at present, and that not a single hair of your head should perish, that so you may be happy both in this life and the next. Do not think, however, that I desire this conversion for my own sake, in order to regain my liberty and follow my vocation in freedom. No; I call God to witness that I would gladly consent to be hanged to-morrow, if all this could be brought about by that means. This is my mind and my desire, consequently I am no enemy of the Queen's nor of yours, nor have I ever been so.'

" Hereupon Mr. Attorney kept silence for a time, and then he began afresh to ask me what Catholics I knew ; did I know such and such ? I answered, ' I do not know them.' And I added the usual reasons why I should still make the same answer even if I did know them, showing that this was not telling a falsehood. Upon this he digressed to the question of equivocation, 2 and began to inveigh against Father Southwell, because on his trial he denied that he knew the woman who was brought forward to accuse him. 3 She swore that he had come to her father's house and was received there as a priest; this he positively denied, though he had been taken in that house and was found in a hiding-place, having been betrayed by this wretched woman. A dutiful daughter truly, who thus betrayed to death both her spiritual and her natural father! Christ our Lord, however, came not to send peace, but a sword to divide between the good and the bad ; and in this case He divided the bad daughter from the good parents. Good Father Southwell, then, though he marvelled at the impudence of this miserable wench, yet denied what she asserted, and gave good reasons for his denial, well knowing and thoroughly proving that it was not lawful for him to do otherwise, lest he should add to the injury of those who were already suffering for the faith, and for charity shown to him. Taking this occasion, therefore, he showed very learnedly that it was lawful in some cases, nay, even necessary, perhaps, to use equivocation ; which doctrine he established and confirmed by strong arguments and copious authorities, drawn as well from Holy Scripture as from the writings of the Doctors of the Church.

" The Attorney-General inveighed much against this, and tried to make out that this was to foster lying, and so destroy all reliable communications between men, and therefore all bonds of society. I, on the other hand, maintained that this was not falsehood, nor supposed an intention of deceiving, which is necessary to constitute a lie, but merely a keeping back of the truth, and that where one is not bound to declare it: consequently there is no deception, because nothing is refused which the other has a right to claim. I showed, moreover, that our doctrine did in no way involve a destruction of the bonds of society, because it is never allowed to use equivocation in making contracts, since all are bound to give their neighbour his due, and in making of contracts truth is due to the party contracting. It should be remarked also, I said, that it is not allowed to use equivocation in ordinary conversation to the detriment of plain truth and Christian simplicity, much less in matters properly falling under the cognizance of civil authority, 4 since it is not lawful to deny even a capital crime if the accused is questioned juridically. He asked me, therefore, what I considered a juridical questioning. I answered that the questioners must be really superiors and judges in the matter of examination ; then, the matter itself must be some crime hurtful to the common weal, in order that it may come under their jurisdiction ; for sins merely internal were reserved for God's judgment. Again, there must be some reliable testimony previously brought against the accused ; thus, it is the custom in England that all who are put on their trial, when first asked by the judge if they are guilty or not, answer 'Not guilty,' before any witness is brought against them, or any verdict found by the jury; and though they answer the same way, whether really guilty or not, yet no one accuses them of lying. Therefore I laid down this general principle, that no one is allowed to use equivocation except in the case when something is asked him either actually or virtually, which the questioner has no right to ask, and the declaration of which will turn to his own hurt, if he answers according to the intention of the questioner. I showed that this had been our Lord's practice and that of the saints. I showed that it was the practice of all prudent men, and would certainly be followed by my interrogators themselves in case they were asked about some secret sin, for example, or were asked by robbers where their money was hid.

" They asked me, therefore, when our Lord ever made use of equivocation; to which I replied, 'When He told His Apostles that no one knew the Day of Judgment, not even the Son of Man : and again when He said that He was not going up to the Festival at Jerusalem, and yet He went; yea, and He knew that He should go when He said He would not.'

"Wade here interrupted me, saying, 'Christ really did not know the Day of Judgment, as Son of Man.'

"' It cannot be,' said I, ' that the Word of God Incarnate, and with a human nature hypostatically united to God, should be subject to ignorance ; nor that He Who was appointed Judge by God the Father should be ignorant of those facts which belonged necessarily to His office ; nor that He should be of infinite wisdom, and yet not know what intimately concerned Himself.' In fact these heretics do not practically admit what the Apostle teaches (though they boast of following his doctrines), viz., that all the fulness of the Divinity resided corporally in Christ, and that in Him were all the treasures of the . wisdom and knowledge of God. It did not, however, occur to me at the moment to adduce this passage of St. Paul.

" They made no reply to my arguments, but the Attorney-General wrote everything down, and said he should use it against me at my trial in a short time. But he did not keep his word. For I was not worthy to enter under God's roof, where nothing defiled can enter. I have therefore still to be purified by a prolonged sojourn in exile, and so at length, if God please, be saved as by fire.

"This my last examination was in Trinity Term, as they call it. They have four terms in the year, during which many come up to London to have their causes tried, for these are times that the Law Courts are open. It is during these terms, on account of the great confluence of people, that they bring those priests to trial whom they have determined to prosecute ; and probably this was what they proposed to do in my case—but man proposes and God disposes, and He had disposed otherwise. When this time, therefore, had passed away, there was no longer any probability that they would proceed against me publicly. I turned my attention consequently to study in this time of enforced leisure, as I thought they had now determined only to prevent my communication with others, and that this was the reason they had transferred me to my present prison as being more strict and more secure."

Midsummer day came, when the Lieutenant of the Tower as usual sent in his quarterly bill to the Exchequer "for the diets and charges of certain prisoners in his custody from the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lady the Virgin 1597, until the Feast of St. John the Baptist then next following." This paper, 5 which bears the signatures of the Lords of the Privy Council, gives us the date of Father Gerard's transfer to the Tower. "Item, for the diet and charges of John Gerratt gent, from the 12th day of April 1597 until the feast of St. John Baptist next ensuing, being 10 weeks and a half, the sum of 6I. 13s. 4d.

"Item, for his keeper during the same time at 6s. 8d. the week . . . 3I. 6s. 8d.

"Item, for fuel and lights during the same time at 6s. 8d. the week. . . 3I. 6s. 8d.

"Item, for his washing during the same time . 5s."

It would have been interesting to see how the Lieutenant expressed himself when he sent in his Michaelmas bill, but unfortunately the paper is lost. By that time Father Gerard had ceased to be one of the prisoners in his custody.

In the Ordination list in the First Douay Diary there is the entry, 4 'Anno millesimo sexcentesimo, Aprilis i°, Franciscus Pageus Londinen. M."

2 Our readers cannot fail to remember the passage in Shakspeare's Macbeth which is most evidently aimed against the Catholic martyrs. The castle porter' Act. II. Sc. 3, imagines himself porter at Hell gate, and soliloquizes : " Knock' knock ! who's there? . . . Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale : who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to Heaven." If these words were Shakspeare's they would be sufficient by themselves to settle the question of his Catholicity. No Catholic could speak thus of those who died for their faith The Cambridge Editors (Clarendon Press Series) reject the passage, and they quote Coleridge's criticism : « This low soliloquy of the porter, and his few speeches afterwards, I believe to have been written for the mob by some other hand "

3 This was the wretched Anne Bellamy, a young Catholic gentlewoman, who when in prison was ruined by Topcliffe and married by him to Nicholas Jones, the underkeeper of the Gatehouse. Troubles, Second Series, pp. 51—64.

4 In subornata gubernatione Rcipublicӕ.— MS. There is clearly some blunder here. Probably we ought to read " subordinata": yet even so, the phrase is not very intelligible. We have judged of the sense intended, by the context.

5 P.R.O., Pell Office, Exchequer Papers, Tower Bills: parcel 1, 1572— 1605.