Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Facts Illustrative of the times of Elizabeth Queen Of England. Part 32.

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.


GEORGE GILBERT, S.J. PART IV.

He thereupon entirely devoted himself to Father Parsons as the individual companion of his journeys, and to be made useful by him for the good of the Catholic cause, even to the expending thereon his sweat and blood. He would not be admitted on the terms of a patron, or companion only, but rather in the character of a servant, or a steward in the apostolical ministry. He not only liberally supplied Father Parsons in all necessaries of life, of habitation, and travelling, with all altar requisites, but he begged with earnest entreaties to be allowed, at his sole expense, to do the same for Father Campion also, and the rest of their companions; nor was he more prompt in promising than munificent in performing. Nor was the bounty of this youth confined to the members of the Society of Jesus alone, but extended itself equally to other Priests and Catholics, in the bright hope of a heavenly recompense. He made his home a common asylum for Priests and Catholics, and it would often happen that, from the unexpected concourse, his house would he full, when he would give up his own bed and lie upon the ground. Nor did the rents of his estates long remain in his hands before some applicant for relief would require them, or else he would expend them in the service of the Church, in all which he consulted and followed the advice of Father Parsons. He would equip some of the Catholics with dress and money according to their age, more or less fine, and by enabling them to go about as gentlemen, or men of rank, with a gay appearance, especially such as were Priests. He assisted them in this way more than in any other, because, by concealing their real character, he enabled them, by this innocent stratagem, to elude the vigilance of the pursuivants and spies; and if ever thesupply of clothing of this style fell short, he furnished them from his own back.

By his incredible liberality towards Catholics and Priests, especially towards the incarcerated, it is impossible to say how many souls he preserved from danger of ruin, and how many lapsed Catholics he caused to be restored to their faith. Indeed, so great were his labours for the help of souls in these kinds of works of charity, either personally, or by means of others, that they may be said easily to have exceeded in measure and merit those of any other Priest whatever. An intimate friend of his affirmed that a goodly volume might be filled with the names of the vascillating he strengthened, the lapsed he restored, and the tepid he aroused, by his own generous spirit, and especially young men his own equal in age and rank, out of whom, as we have seen, he formed the Catholic Association.

Early in July, 1580, as has been already mentioned in Mr. Pounde's Life, Father Parsons and Father Campion, duly equipped by George Gilbert, each having two horses and a servant, two suits of apparel for travelling, sixty pounds in money, with vestments, books, and everything needful for the church or for the road, rode forth from London, which was then emptied of friends and swarming with spies. Further stay there was both needless and dangerous, and hence they resolved, with the other Priests, to go forth on their appointed missions into the shires.

Father Parsons was accompanied by George Gilbert, Father Campion by Gervase Pierrepoint They agreed to meet and take leave of each other at the house of a gentlemen at "Hogsdon" [Hoxton], probably that of Mr. Gardiner, the first convert of Father Parsons.

The Council soon knew of their departure from London, and sent pursuivants into most of the shires in England, with warrants to apprehend both of them wherever they could find them; but being diligently warned by the Catholics, they easily avoided their pursuers. " They lost their labour, and we had three or four months free to follow our business, in which period 3 by the help and direction of the young gentlemen that went with us, we passed through the most part of the shires of England, preaching and administering the Sacraments in almost every gentleman and nobleman's house that we passed by, whether he was Catholic or not, provided he had any Catholics in his house to hear us.

"We entered for the most part as an acquaintance or kinsfolk of some person that lived within the house, and when that failed us, as passengers, or friends of some gentleman that accompanied us; and after ordinary salutations, we had our lodgings, by procurement of the Catholics within the house, in some part retired from the rest, where, putting ourselves in Priest's apparel and furniture, which we always carried with us, we had secret conference with the Catholics that were there, or such of them as might conveniently come, whom we ever caused to be ready for that night late to prepare themselves for the Sacrament of Confession; and the next morning, very early, we had Mass, and the Blessed Sacrament ready for such as would communicate, and after that an exhortation, and then we made ourselves ready to depart again. And this was the manner of proceeding when we stayed least; but when there was longer and more liberal stay, then these exercises were more frequent." 1

As one object of the present volume is to bring to light the dreadful sufferings inflicted upon Catholics by their Protestant brethren and countrymen, to compel them, though the attempts were vain, to embrace the new religion of Barlow, Cranmer, and Company, and to renounce the old Catholic traditions of their ancestors, we must pause a little to give some account of the labours of Father Parsons in his tour through the counties, accompanied by his faithful companion, George Gilbert, whose piety was not sufficiently satisfied by supplying riding-horses and men, who, whenever the Father went far from London to visit the country seats of the nobles, &c, would run before him through the country for many miles, giving notice to Catholics in what village or house they would find the Father on such a day, and in whatever neighbourhood he would visit on another day; but he himself would accompany him as a guide and passport, one time in his true character of a gentleman, at another just the opposite, as his servant and groom in livery, and, according to circumstances, a constant change of dress for both of them; for his great anxiety and heart-beating was entirely for the good Father's life; for his own he had no thought. Before giving a letter of Father Parsons from London, 17th November, 1580, to Father Agazzari, Rector of the English College, Rome, we will quote from one from a Priest in London, dated in July, 1581, to the same Father Agazzari, an extract from which, as regards the horrors of the prison of Wisbeach Castle, has been already given in the life of Thomas Pounde. "When a Priest comes to their houses, they first salute him as a stranger unknown to them, and then they take him to an inner chamber, where an oratory is set up, where all fall on their knees and beg his blessing. Then they ask how long he will remain with them, and pray him to stop as long as he may. If he says he must go on the morrow, as he usually does—for it is dangerous to stay longer—they all prepare for confession that evening. The next morning they hear Mass and receive Holy Communion; then, after preaching and giving his blessing a second time, the Priest departs, and is conducted on his journey by one of the young gentlemen;" that is, of the Catholic Association. The hiding-holes had become known by means of searchers and false brethren, by the middle of 1581; so that, even thus early, Catholics were compelled, when there was a night alarm, to betake themselves to woods and thickets, ditches and holes.

1 Father Parsons' manuscript Life of Father Campion. Stonyhurst MSS., quoted in Mr. Simpson's Campion, p. 164.