Jesuits In Conflict: Or Historic Facts Illustrative of the labours of the English Mission and Province Of The Society Of Jesus. In the times of Queen Elizabeth and her successors. By a member Of The Society Of Jesus.
THOMAS POUNDE, OF BELMONT, S.J. Part II.
Retiring to his paternal mansion at Belmont, he there buried himself in solitude. Pondering upon the rewards of obsequious slavery to the world, he blamed himself as the most foolish of men, and felt how much more blessedly he would have acted had he consecrated to God, to the affairs of eternity, and to the salvation of his own soul, the things which, in contempt to God, to the disgrace of religion, and to the loss of his own soul, he had so profusely lavished before the eyes of the Queen; finally, from hence he conceived a great self-confusion and horror, and made a resolution of amendment so constant and fixed, that for the ensuing forty-four years (he was than aged thirty) he lived altogether as another man. Before all things, therefore, he procured to be reconciled to God and the Church, making restitution by the most fervent penance for his shameful denial of both before the eyes of the Court, by simulating the heresy of the Queen. He exchanged his paternal mansion for the private house of a Catholic citizen, in which for a little more than two years he practised the solitude of a hermit, giving himself to prayer and austerity of life, and self-examination, despising what others either thought or said of him, or of his adopted manner of life, suffering much from his friends, and from himself too, whilst he thus as it were acclimated himself both to solitude, charity, neglect of the necessaries of life, and to other severity and hard treatment He also bound himself by vow to perpetual chastity, and to embrace the Priesthood, after proving himself worthy of it by a seven years' trial in the exercise of pious works.
It was then also that he sought entrance into the Society of Jesus, being attracted to it chiefly on account of its abstaining from accepting dignities, its vows of obedience, its devotion to the Holy See, &c. He had also read letters from our Fathers in the Indies, with an account of their labours and sufferings there, and the numerous conversions of those barbarous idolators to the faith, whom God in His mercy had drawn to Himself The reading of these letters greatly increased his desire of entering the Society, and devoting himself wholly to it, as a son and servant.
This is the time to which we must refer those things which are related of him by our Father Thomas Stephens (of whom more hereafter) in his petition to Father General Mercurianus in 1578, for Pounde's admission into the Society, which is related further on. As we shall find recorded more fully in the petition of Father Stephens, he lived for two years, and a little more, in the severe mode of life there mentioned, more like a hermit, occupied with himself and the care of his soul. Sometimes, for several hours in the day, imparting his fervent spirit to his neighbour abroad, reserving the night for his prayers, and remitting nothing of his accustomed austerities. In helping Protestants he would make it a point to endeavour to withdraw them from their personal antipathy to himself, and their accustomed injustice towards Catholics, joining at the same time, with the grace of God, his own particular talent of speaking and power of persuasion; he thus raised many that were fallen and vacillating, and re-established them in the ancient faith.
Whilst Pounde was thus burning with zeal for serving souls, Father Henry Alvarez returning into England from Rome, related to him many things regarding the Institute of the Society, its ardent zeal in helping its neighbour, its strict rule of obedience, its devotion to the Holy See, its refusal of all dignities, &c, by all of which the mind of Thomas was so inflamed with the desire of embracing its mode of life, that had not his aged mother, who yet survived, been an obstacle, he would have given away his property to the poor (which otherwise would have been confiscated to the Treasury on his departure) and instantly have embarked for Rome, where was the Novitiate of the Society.
In the meantime God sent him, in the first instance, as an acquaintance, which grew afterwards into the closest friendship, a youth named Thomas Stephens, a native of the diocese of Salisbury. I do not know whether he also, like Pounde, was inflamed by a desire to enter the Society by reading our accounts from India, but we find him a little later sailing to the East, and there for forty years engaged in Apostolic and most meritorious labours in the neighbourhood of Goa, for the salvation of those blind idolators whom he enlightened by preaching the Gospel, so as to form one of the most numerous and pious Christian congregations that flourished in those parts of India. He was by birth of a respectable family well known to Pounde, who gave him an asylum in his house, treating him as his equal; but for the benefit of both they mutually agreed to appear abroad, Pounde in quality of master, Stephens in the habit and employ of a servant This they did as a blind to the Protestants, who watched with a thousand eyes the footsteps of those Catholics who were well dressed, and seemed to be in good circumstances, in order to oppress them, and enrich themselves with their substance.
Thus they lived together for nearly two years, when, impatient of further delay in accomplishing the desire of their hearts towards the Society, they resolved to leave their affairs to chance, and to break through all the hindrances that too much retarded them. Then collecting together what ready money they could raise * by the sale of such things as they had at hand, they held themselves in readiness to seize the first good opportunity of secretly leaving England, and with a select band of youths whom Pounde had gained to God and the Society. Nay, further, he had determined, should he get over to the neighbouring port, Calais, to more than double that number, and to that end, to spend two or three months in France and Flanders, in searching out the flower of the English youth that were there, and collecting what Providence should give him, to conduct them to Rome at his own expense, and there to offer himself and them to the General of the Society as his sons and subjects.