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 XIII.
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Father Campion and Father Parsons finding London emptied of friends, and swarming with spies, which rendered further stay both useless and dangerous, they determined with the other Priests to go forth on their appointed missions into the shires. Each of the Fathers was furnished with two horses and a servant, two suits of apparel for travelling, sixty pounds in money, books, vestments, and everything needful for the church or for the road, by George Gilbert, who also promised to supply whatever more might be necessary for them. Gilbert was the founder and the soul of a young men's club, the object of which will be more fully stated in the Life of Mr. Gilbert. The members binding themselves to perform the two functions of preparing Protestants and the safe conduct of the Priests, besides procuring alms for the common fund, out of which the Priests were supported. Not only did their peculiar position force these young laymen into such an association, but the various difficulties of the missionary Priests made the cooperation of some such body absolutely necessary. The penal laws were already very severe, and held out strong inducements to the laymen to betray the missionaries. Prudence, therefore, forbade them to compromise themselves, or the persons whom they visited, before they knew that their visits would be safe to themselves or agreeable to the parties. For this reason our Fathers were ordered to be very <^ireful whom they conversed with; on no account to have any personal dealings with any Protestant, until his Catholic friends had sounded his disposition, secured his impartiality, and learnt that the Priests might speak with him without fear of being betrayed. All this required an extensive organization among the Catholic gentry.
Further, as the safety of the Priests required that they should know to whom they were going to trust themselves, and should be protected and conducted on their way from house to house, so did the safety of the host require that he should know whom he was receiving. Priests could not carry about with them the certificates of their Priesthood, still less the proofs of their honesty. Unknown strangers might be spies, or false brethren, or fallen Priests, as easily as honest men. It was necessary then that the missionaries should be conducted by some well-known and trustworthy person ; hence this conductor had to be a gentleman well known and respected throughout the country.
Such functions entailed upon these guides great sacrifices; they determined " to imitate the lives of the Apostles, and devote themselves wholly to the salvation of souls and conversion of heretics." They promised "to content themselves with food and clothing, and the bare necessaries of their state, and to bestow all the rest for the good of the Catholic cause." Their association was solemnly blessed by Pope Gregory XIII., 14th April, 1580. 2
The members soon became known as "subseminaries;" "conductors, companions, and comforters of Priests;" "Lay-brothers," "lay assistants," to "straggle abroad and bring in game;" whose business it was "not to argue, but to pry in corners, to get men to entertain conference of the Priests, or inveigle youths to fly over sea to the Seminaries."
1 His Life forms the second part of this volume.
2 Vide Dom. Elizabeth State Papers, Vol. cxxxvii., No. 128, a copy of which has been obtained from the Record Office.