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 V.
" As often as the opportunity of a Priest allowed it, he would go to confession and Holy Communion on all Sundays and festivals, and frequently in the week, and he was the cause of others doing the same, very frequently complaining to his friends, that Catholics incurring so small a risk to their temporal interests (as it seemed to him), and standing in such great peril of their souls, should so seldom frequent those divine mysteries.
"The episcopal city of Winchester lay not far distant from his house. Happening to hear that many poor Catholic recusants (so the heretics call all those who refuse fellowship with them) lay concealed there, and that a certain aged Priest also dwelt in that city, but who seldom said Mass, and much more seldom communicated them, he quickly betook himself thither, examined into their state and mode of life, provided dinner for them after Mass and Holy Communion, and gave alms to the Priest, exhorting him to celebrate more frequently for the purpose of communicating the Catholics. A little after the returning markets, and at no small expense, he would buy a large stock of cheese, and distribute two or three of these to each of the poor people, stipulating that if they did not choose to respond with greater fervour to the divine privilege, and the grace bestowed upon them, they might regard this as done out of friendship.
" It afforded him wonderful joy and consolation of soul when at times he beheld twelve or sixteen young men of rank, whom he had collected together, hearing Mass, which he had secretly procured to be said in his private oratory, and going to Holy Communion with him.
" He was so assiduous in almsgiving, that besides the daily occasions of beneficence, which he prosecuted in a wonderful manner, he would esteem it a favour if any one gave him information of any Catholic labouring under distress; having always on his lips those words of St Paul, Maxime erga domesticos fidei —'Especially towards the household of faith.' Hence, reckoning as nothing what he was himself able to do, he would most earnestly beg of any of his more wealthy friends, alms for the suffering or incarcerated Catholics, with whom the prisons in London were crowded. I remember his once composing an entire treatise (addressed as a thank-offering to a certain Catholic), expressing his opinion that almsgiving is often beneficial to heretics themselves, because by softening their hearts, their ears are more open to the truth. This treatise he sent for perusal to his most Catholic relation, the Earl of Southampton, who without comparison was then the most illustrious and leading Catholic in England, and a great supporter of the Faithful.
" I must not omit an arrangement which he made, and although it could not be carried out, it was a strong proof of his love of, and great desire for, the Society. When he was recently apprehended, and was ignorant of what the judges would decide regarding him, he was so composed in mind as immediately to make his will, in which, besides the rest of his property, which he desired to be distributed amongst the poor imprisoned Catholics, he gave ^300 to that House or College of the Society in which I might then be, for thither he himself, should this ever be possible, hoped also to be received.
" He daily strove to reconcile enemies; to convert heretics to the true faith; schismatics to a sincere profession of the faith and Catholic practices, with such success, that within a few months (even after such imprisonment) nearly twenty of both sexes, of various ages and conditions in life, were converted by his labours from schismatical tepedity to Catholic piety, and to the bosom of the holy Roman Catholic Church.
"At this period, being now relieved from prison, in the renewed hope of being able in a short time to make his intended journey, he resolved to spend some days, together with the rest of his companions, in prayer and fasting, in order that he might more auspiciously enter upon so important a work, and with greater fervour. I heard him say that he had intended to spend two or three months in Flanders and France, and if he could there pick up young men of good promise, and of his own stamp, to take them with him to Rome, at his own expense, and offer them, with himself, to the Society. He entertained I know not what hopes of converting a certain heretic in London, deeming it a thing very grateful to God, and fitting to render his undertaking auspicious, if, in the meantime, pending the necessary arrangements for his journey, he might by the way effect this good work. He spent that night, therefore, as secretly as possible (so he thought) in the house of the Protestant, for the sake of exhorting and instructing him; but as his labour and pains seemed to be thrown away, with this idea he prepared to leave the house the following day, when, lo! he was unexpectedly apprehended by the pursuivants, taken before the pseudo-Bishop of London, and by him committed to prison.
"His courage of soul on this occasion was remarkable, for when he was cut off from so great a hope of his journey, and exposed to such manifest danger of life (many writings and pamphlets being found upon him by which the heretics would be able to convict him of high treason), yet was he nothing alarmed, nothing changed, but wished all to be referred ad majorem Dei gloriam, and to the honour of the Catholic Church, testifying that he, and all his, depended upon the Divine will and Providence. This tended to confirm him in the esteem and good opinion of many, who, as in the former times, never remembered to have observed in him any sign of trouble or dejection of heart, so now they found that these kinds of imperfections were equally remote from his breast.
"The Protestant in whose house he was seized, observing all these things, and struck with veneration at his constancy and piety, at the same time reflecting that all this had happened to him on his account, returning home was converted, and embraced the Catholic faith, and after a few months though with greater difficulty his wife, and not long after his daughters followed his example.
" It was no obscure mark of a sincere conscience in one seeking only the glory of God, that on the pseudo-bishop offering to liberate him if he would promise in his presence just to go once to the church, or to hear a sermon, he replied that, if he could not gain his liberty but by the offence of God and scandalizing his neighbour, he would prefer that his soul should be torn from his body rather than that his body should be released on such terms.
" After six months, at the intervention of the said Earl of Southampton, he was liberated from prison, with leave to go to any part within the kingdom he wished, bail being given to appear within twenty days whenever called upon, and not to meddle with matters of religion, or to quit the realm. He, however, as though he felt himself as secure as formerly from all dangers, went about with greater fervour than ever, strengthening the weak and confirming the strong. Wherefore, after sixteen months, he was summoned to Winchester by the bishop of that city, together with his highly respectable neighbour, George Cotton, Mr. Henry Udall, Mr. Henry Sheldon, and not a few others of his county, men of high family (this, however, I did not see myself, but received it from others who were present, and were very fervent in their commendation of him). And when before the bishop, and a great assembly of spectators, he rendered so brilliant a reason for his faith in the presence of them all, and so severely rebuked the bishop himself, that he was utterly unable, for very rage and confusion, to say a word in reply. The rest of them, no doubt, animated by his powerful eloquence and address, behaved most firmly; so that many who had flocked thither, amazed at the unusual spectacle of so many respectable men placed in such circumstances, left the court favourably inclined to Catholicism.