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 XXIII.
Knowing Thomas' great zeal and courage, and calling to remembrance his spirited affair with Bishop Home of Winchester, we may well imagine how galled he must have been at the insolence of these two deans, and the unjust and cruel treatment of Father Campion, as recorded in the account of this long conference; of which the blessed martyr himself, in his reply complains—" As to the conditions of the discussion, though they were clearly most unjust, yet he accepted them; he had challenged them; they had met him on the field he had indicated; but they had taken care to deprive him of his arms, for the arms of the disputant are books and meditations : no notice had been given him of the conference; no time for thought; as for books, even his notes had been taken from him. Was it an answer to his challenge to rack him first, then to deprive him of all books, and to set him to dispute ? When life was in question, with the gallows before, and the rack behind, the mind was hardly free for philosophy," &c.
Nowell's opening of the conference must have especially excited Pounde—" They had come to seek the truth; not for themselves, for they had found it, but to help Campion and his fellows, and to do them good, if God permitted."
If an impartial report had been given of the conference, it is more than probable that we should find many pungent " interpellations," & c, by Thomas, besides the above. Amongst the many converts of Thomas was our glorious martyr, Father Thomas Cottam, who suffered at Tyburn, May 30, 1582, in the thirty-third year of his age. 1 He entered the Society in Rome, April 8,1579. He was a native of Lancashire, born of Protestant parents, and brought up as such. Having made his earlier studies at home, he came to London to complete them, and to seek his own fortune. Here it pleased God that he should be introduced to, and become on the most intimate terms of friendship with our noble Thomas Pounde, who was not then become a prisoner for the Faith. Father Cottam was not only a Protestant at that time, but his habits were not of the most praiseworthy kind. Thomas, however, by the cogency of his reasoning, and the example of his own holy life, not only converted him to the Catholic faith, but wrought a total reformation in him, changing him into another man; so much so that he resolved to give himself up entirely to God, and the service of His Church. He left England for the Seminary of Douay, carrying with him, and retaining as he always did to the last, a present and lively recollection of Pounde, the father of his soul, and of the everlasting debt of gratitude he owed to that holy man, through whom he had gained the precious treasure of faith.
In a letter to his benefactor, dated Ascension Day, 12th May, 1575, worthy of record, he says, "Your charity, like its author, is eternal; and as there is no comparison between things eternal, and perishable goods, between time and eternity, so am I neither able by word or writing to sufficiently express the testimony of my gratitude, I owe you. I remember when you were to me a consoler in my solitude, the guide of my path, my helper in my afflictions, -and my refuge in need.
"Through you the Divine mercy recalled me from any wanderings; raised me up when fallen; sustained me in my wavering; preserved me in my trials; restored me when lost So great a thing is it to possess a faithful friend; and such you have well shown yourself to me; and at the same time the vast difference there is between an honest and conscientious Christian, and an ordinary one, and one of pleasures.
"I had already begun to know vice (which I deeply lament). Now I follow virtue, and wonderfully it refreshes my soul, now freed from earthly cares, and safe from my enemies, and in no great fear of hell. These are great things indeed, and for all of which I am indebted to you; but that by far the greatest of all, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of the Apostle saith, Testimonium reddit spiritui nostro, quod sumus flii Dei. 2
"I beseech you by the same Holy Spirit; by Christ this day ascending into Heaven; by the Eternal Father at Whose right hand He sitteth; by the Omnipotent and Immortal God, Three in One, that you be always mindful of me, and sometimes solace me by your letters. I will implore this same God, even to my latest breath, that He may long preserve you safe, with the highest increase of His honour and merits, and at last crown you with a holy end! Farewell!" 3
We conclude this notice of our noble confessor of the Faith, and dear brother in Christ, with an expression of admiration at the providence of God displayed in regard to him, decreeing that (although he was almost an equal object of dread and hatred to the adversaries of the Faith as the blessed martyr Father Campion himself, yet, nevertheless) he should not be led forth to consummate his victory at Tyburn, as so many other of his contemporaries were—a consummation he had so long sighed after, daily expected, and was so well prepared for—but that he should be reserved for a far more painful, because tedious martyrdom of thirty years of incarceration, and chains, in loathsome dungeons.
1 Vide Challoner's Missionary Priests; Father More's Hist. Prov. Angl.; Father Bartoli, Inghil. ; and Father Tanner.
2 Rom. viii. 16.
3 More, Hist. Prov. Anglia, I. iv., n. vii., p. 127.