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.
"After this they were all given into separate custody, and Mr. Thomas was thrust into the prison of the common thieves. But when the bishop saw that many were impressed by his example, and especially by his fastings and prayers (which things are deemed simple impossibilities amongst them), he removed him from his diocese, as if he were a pest, and remanded him to London, where to this day he perseveres in prison, to the great consolation and edification of many.
" One thing alone remains, which seems to afford a specimen of his great and unmeasured zeal, that from the time of his apprehension, and the consequent loss of all hope of going to Rome, he laboured all the more; and for the greater glory of God and the salvation of his neighbour, would have entered the Priesthood, but the great want of Bishops in England rendered this impracticable. How great affliction this caused him is known only to those who were intimate with him, and the more so because he saw that his want of Holy Orders hindered his doing much that he could otherwise have undertaken.
" But to return to the point; the only relief for this his twofold grief, and affliction of soul, is that your Paternity will be pleased to give him your fatherly consent to this his petition, to regard his sighs, his prayers and desires, now for these four years daily poured out before God, and would persuade yourself (which is most true) that Thomas Pounde has been so disposed towards the Society for the past seven years, that he would esteem all labours light to him were he but admitted to it.
" Indeed, I do not hesitate to affirm that he eagerly desires this favour of your Paternity for no other cause than that, fortified by our spiritual helps, and relying on the name and opinion of the Society, he may be able to effect greater good for his neighbours* salvation, which he daily yearns after with the whole affection of his heart.
"In the Roman College, 4th November, 1578.
"Praise be to Almighty God, and to His Blessed Virgin Mother.
"Your Reverence's unworthy son in Christ,
Father General accordingly admitted him on the 1 st of December, 1578, and sent him the anxiously expected announcement by the following letter. He was then in the Tower.
" Thomas Stephens, our very dear brother in Christ, relates many things to us of your constant piety and faith, which are most grateful to us, but especially that you have now for many years aspired with great desire to our Society. Therefore, although our Institute rules that we admit no one amongst our members unless he hath been well proved by many trials, yet nevertheless, moved by the very clear testimony, both of Stephens and*others, and accepting as a long probation your labours and sufferings of so many years, we are induced to yield to your pious desires.
"Wherefore, by virtue of that authority which God our Lord hath deigned to bestow upon us, "though unworthy, we now already embrace you as a son and brother, we receive and admit you to our Society, and
as a true member engrafted into the whole body, and we do also at the same time make you a sharer and participant in all our works, our labours, and our merits. But we hope the mercy and infinite goodness of God will at some future time be so propitious to you, that as we greatly desire, delivered from these troubles, we may be permitted to enjoy your company and presence: but should the providence of God for any cause deprive us of this opportunity, we nevertheless wish that this thought should console you, that, after a few days of this brief life, we shall be so united together in that eternal immortality (which we should all look forward to, and keep before our eyes), that nothing may be able then to separate us.
"As for the rest, although I know that your virtue, which I hear is truly worthy of a Christian man, requires no confirmation, yet as a most dear son, I will briefly admonish you in the words of the Apostle, that you may be mindful to be a spectacle to God, to Angels, and to men; to God indeed as the bestower of eternal rewards for the smallest labours; to Angels as strengthened by their presence; to men also that you may greatly inflame them, as hitherto you have done by your example, to true piety, and to encourage such as need it to undergo dangers with alacrity for Christ Which thing, however, we wish may be so prudently and cautiously conducted by you, that you neither run into open danger without cause and fruit —a course which is held to be, not courage, but rashness—nor that you destroy your health and strength by immoderate abstinence and fastings, to which we hear you are abundantly addicted; but rather, as the Prophet saith, that you take care to preserve your strength for God—fortitudinem suam ad Deum custodire.
"May our Lord, however, to Whom it always belongs to protect and defend innocence and integrity, especially when brought into any danger in His own cause, be so propitious to you, that He may either totally drive away from you all these troubles, or, should He deem it to be more expedient for you otherwise, may He increase in you fortitude, constancy, and salutary patience to endure them. At least we never cease, both ourselves, as also all of ours, to pray and beseech our Lord in this behalf. This one thing, however, I greatly desire of you, that you publish to no one this your determination regarding our Society, neither by habit or dress, nor by discourse, but that you keep your secret to yourself until better times beam forth, when this your desire, by the grace of God, may be openly followed out
"In the meantime may the grace of Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you.
"Rome, ist December, 1578."
Father Bartoli mentions another letter of Father General written to Pounde, dated 15th April, 1580, exhorting him to renew his fervour, and reminding him that, being now a member of the Society of Jesus, he must never cease from the following of Jesus with the Cross on his shoulders, however steep and difficult the way, even to the summit of Calvary, there to die with Him upon the Cross. His Paternity again cautions him whilst in England, and especially in the prisons, not to appear in the habit of the Society, as the times and place were unsuitable, but by sanctity of life, and despising of the world, to show that he no longer belonged to earth.
The following copy has been taken from one in the Archives de l'Etat, Brussels. 1 It does not, however, appear to contain any mention of the habit of the Society.
"To Thomas Pounde, in prison in England,—I could not omit so good an opportunity as now presents itself, of giving some answer to your letter, to salute you in our Lord, and for our mutual consolation, by this means of correspondence, seeing that no other is open to us. I hope you will receive no little joy in our Lord from the visit of this our common friend, who is the bearer of this letter to you, who will moreover give you a proof of my affection towards you, and with how great love we embrace you in the bowels of Christ.
"Now, although I know that you are abundantly stout-hearted, yet would I desire to exhort you in Christ, not only patiently, but with alacrity, to endure those troubles wherewith, for so long a time, by the permission of the Divine Goodness, you have been visited, so long as it shall seem good to the same Lord, that they continue. And that you will apply this saying of the Apostle St James to yourself— 'Let us esteem it as all joy when we fall into divers temptations, that our faith may become more precious than gold tried by the fire.' Of which truth so many illustrious examples are left us both by the holy Martyrs, as by the Head of Martyrs Himself, Jesus, of Whom we, since by His infinite kindness we are called to His companionship, ought to esteem it a great, truly the greatest of all favours, should He be pleased to admit us to the fellowship, as of other virtues, so also of that of His Cross; for whosoever will be a companion of His Cross, will likewise be of the glory of His rewards and immortality.
"I thought with this to salute you, at the same time also commending myself to your prayers. May our Lord Jesus be always with you, and vouchsafe to bless and prosper you in all things. Amen.
"Rome, 15th April, 1580."
1 Collectio Cardwelli, MSS. (S.J.), ex Arch. Belgico Bruxell, vol. i., p. 35 (1872, Stonyhurst).