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 V.
"Sometimes when we are sitting merrily at table, conversing familiarly on matters of faith and devotion (for our talk is generally of such things), there comes a hurried knock at the door, like that of a pursuivant ; all start up and listen, like deer when they hear the huntsman. We leave our food, and commend ourselves to God in a brief ejaculation; nor is word or sound heard till the servants come to say what the matter is. If it is nothing, we laugh at our fright.
"No one is to be found in these parts who complains of the length of services. If a Mass does not last nearly an hour, many are discontented. If six, eight, or more Masses are said in the same place, and on the same day (as often happens when there is a meeting of Priests), the same congregation will assist at all. When they can get Priests they confess every week. Quarrels are scarce known amongst them. Disputes are almost always left to the arbitration of the Priest. They do not willingly intermarry with heretics, nor will they pray with them, nor do they like to have any dealings with them. A lady was lately told that she should be let out of prison if she would walk through a church. She refused. She had come into prison with a sound conscience, and she would depart with it or die. In Henry VIII. 's days, the father of this Elizabeth, the whole kingdom, with all its Bishops and learned men, abjured their faith at one word of the tyrant. But now, in his daughter's days, boys and women boldly profess the Faith before the judge, and refuse to make the slightest concession, even at the threat of death." 1
The following is Father Parson's narrative of his missionary expedition with George Gilbert, as given in his letter of 17th November, 1580. 2
" The heat of the persecution now raging against Catholics throughout the whole realm is most fiery, and such as hath never been heard of since the conversion of England. Gentle and simple, men and women, are being everywhere haled to prison, even children are being put into irons. They are despoiled of their goods, shut out from the light of day, and publicly held up to the contempt of the people in proclamations, sermons, and conferences, as traitors and rebels. It is supposed that the reasons of this great persecution are, first, the ill success of the English in Ireland, next, the demonstration made last summer against England by the Spanish fleet, and lastly, the coming of the Jesuits into the island, and the great number of conversions made by them, which has so astonished the heretics that they know not what to do or say. They are most troubled about a certain protestation of their Faith and religion, and of the reasons of their coming into England, which the Jesuits wrote and signed with their names, and placed in the hands of a friend, for fear that, if they were cast into prison, the heretics might pretend, as is their usual custom, that they had recanted. This protestation was communicated by the man who had charge of it to another, and by him to a third, and it soon came into the hands of an immense number, and even of the Queen's Councillors." 3
"We hear that one month since more than fifty thousand names of persons who refused to go to the heretical churches were reported. Many more, I fancy, have been discovered since.
" The heretics, when they throw the Catholics into prison, only ask them one thing, to come to their churches, and to hear sermon and service. It was even lately proposed to certain noblemen to come, if it were only once a year, to church, making, if they pleased, a previous protestation that they came not to approve of their religion or doctrines, but only to show an outward obedience to the Queen; and yet all most constantly refused. A certain noble lady was offered her choice either to stay in prison, or simply to walk through the church without stopping there or exhibiting any signs of respect, but she declared that she never would. A boy of, I believe, twelve years of age who had been cheated by his friends into walking to church before a bride (as the custom here is), and had been afterwards blamed by his companions, was perfectly inconsolable till he found me a few days after, when he threw himself down at my feet, and confessed his sin. A thousand similar instances might be given.
"We, although all conversation with us is forbidden by proclamation, are yet most earnestly invited everywhere; many take long journeys only to speak to us and put themselves and their fortunes entirely in our hands. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that more of our Society should be sent, if possible not fewer than five—one Spaniard, one Italian, and three Englishmen, who must be very learned men on account of the many entangled cases of conscience which arise, from no one here having ample faculties, and from the difficulty of consulting the Holy See—which is treason.
" There is immense want of a Bishop to consecrate for us the holy oils for Baptism and Extreme Unction, for want of which we are brought to the greatest straights, and unless His Holiness makes haste to help us in this matter we shall be soon at our wits end.
"The adversaries are very mad that by no cruelty can they move a single Catholic from his resolution, no, not even a little girl.
"A young lady of sixteen was questioned by the sham Bishop of London about the Pope, and answered him with courage, and even made fun of him in public, and so was ordered to be carried to the public prison for a woman of bad character. 4
On the way she cried out that she was sent to that place for her religion, and not for immodesty.
1 Mr. Simpson's Campion, quoting this letter, pp. 171,172.
2 Quoted in Simpson's Campion, pp. 172-4.
3 This was Father Campion's famous Challenge and Brag, as it was called. See a copy in Life of Mr. Pounde, part ii.