Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 20.

Link for Photo
" After three months, some of my friends made efforts to have me removed to another more comfortable prison, seeing that nothing could be proved against me except my priesthood ; and this they obtained by means of a handsome bribe to Young. So they went to my prison, which was called the Counter, and took off my fetters. These were rusty when they were first put on; but by wearing and moving about in them every day, I had rendered them quite bright and shining. My cell was so small, that a man who had his legs free, might take the whole length of it in three steps. I used to shuffle from one end to the other, as well for exercise, as because the people underneath used to sing lewd songs and Geneva psalms; and I wanted to drown, by the clanking of my chain, a noise that struck still harsher on my ear. My fetters then being removed, and my expenses paid, (which were not great, as I had had little but butter and cheese to season my bread withal,) they brought me before Young, who, making a show of anger, began to chide and upbraid me more than was his wont, and asked me whether I was yet willing to acknowledge where and with whom I had lived ? I answered that I could not do so with a safe conscience, and therefore would not.

"'Well then,' said he, 'I will put you in closer confinement, where you shall be safer lodged, and have iron bars before your window.'

" ' Forthwith he wrote a warrant, and sent me to the prison that is called the Clink. 1 He made all this show, that he might not appear to have taken money for what he did. The fact was, that the prison to which I was now sent was far better than the other, and more comfortable for all prisoners; but to me it afforded especial comfort, on account of the great number of Catholics whom I found there.

"They could not now hinder me from approaching the sacraments, and being comforted in divers other ways, as I shall afterwards show ; for when I had been there a few months, the place was by God's grace so improved, that as for discharging all the duties of the Society, I should never wish to be at large in England, provided I could always live in the like prison and after the like fashion. 2 So my being shut up in the Clink, seemed like a change from Purgatory to Paradise. Instead of lewd songs and blasphemies, the prayers of some Catholic neighbours in the next room met my ear. They came to my door to cheer me up, and showed me a way by which we could open a freer communication. This was through a hole in the wall, which they had covered with a picture, that it might not be seen. By means of it, they gave me, on the morrow, a letter from my friends ; and at the same time furnished me materials for writing back. I wrote therefore to Father Garnet, and told him the whole truth of what had happened to me, and what manner of replies I had made, as I have set forth above.

" I also confessed, and received the most holy Body of Christ, through that same hole. But I had not to do this long, for the Catholics contrived to fashion a key that would open my door; and then every morning, before the gaoler got up, they brought me to another part of the prison, where I said mass, and administered the sacraments to the prisoners lodged in that quarter; for all of them had got keys of their cells.

" I had just such neighbours as I would have picked out, had I had my choice. My next door neighbour was our Brother, Ralph Emerson, of whom Father Campion in a letter to Father General makes mention in these terms, 'My little man and I' He was indeed small in body, 3 but in steadfastness and endurance he was great. He had been already many long years in bonds, ever keeping godly and devout, like a man of the Society : and after my coming to the Clink, he remained six or seven years more. At last he was sent off, with other confessors of Christ, to the castle of Wisbech, where he was attacked with palsy. One half of his body was powerless, so that he could not move about or do the least thing for himself. He lived notwithstanding, to add by his patience fresh jewels to the crown that awaited him. Being driven into banishment with the same company, he came to St. Omers, and died a holy death there, to the great edification of the by-standers. I found this good Brother my next neighbour in the Clink; overhead I had John Lilly, whom God's providence had shut up there for his own good and mine. I had other godly men around me, all true to their faith.

" These having the free run of the prison, any one might visit them without danger. I arranged therefore^ that when any of my friends came to the prison, they should ask to see one of these; and thus they got to have talk with me without its being noticed. I did not however let them into my room, but spoke to them through the aforesaid hole.

" So I passed some time in great comfort and repose; striving the while to gather fruit of souls, by letter and by word of mouth. My first gaoler was a sour-tempered man, who watched very closely to see that there were no unlawful doings amongst us. This called for great wariness on our part, to avoid discovery: but ere long God summoned him from the wardenship of the prison, and from the prison of his body at the same time.

" His successor was a younger man of a milder turn. What with coaxing, and what with bribes, I got him not to look into our doings too nicely, and not to come when he was not called for, except at certain fixed times, at which he always found me ready to receive him. " I used the liberty thus granted me for my neighbours' profit. I began to hear many confessions, and reconciled many persons to the Catholic Church. Some of these were heretics, but the greater number were only schismatics, as I could deal more freely with these than with the others. It was only after long acquaintance, and on the recommendation of trusty friends, that I would let any heretics know how little restraint was put upon me. I do not remember above eight or ten converts from heresy, of whom four entered religion. Two joined our Society, and the other two went to other Orders. As for schismatics, I brought back a goodly number of them to the bosom of the Church. Some became religious; and others gave themselves to good works in England during the persecution. Of these last, was Mr. John Rigby, afterwards martyred. His martyrdom was on this wise.

"On one occasion he appeared before the judges, to plead the cause of a Catholic lady [Mrs. Fortescue, daughter of Sir Edmund Huddlestone and sister of Mrs. Wiseman]. They, unwilling to grant any boon to a Catholic family, asked the advocate of what religion he was himself, that he pleaded so boldly in behalf of another; was he a priest ?

"' No," he answered.

" ' Are you a Papist ? '

"' I am a Catholic.'

"' Indeed ; how long have you been one ?'

"'For such a time."

"'Who made you a Catholic?'

"Not to implicate me, lie gave the name of a priest who had been martyred shortly before [Father Jones alias Buckley O.S.F.].

"'So you have been reconciled to the Church of Rome ?'

" Such a reconciliation is high treason by their unjust laws, and it was of this that they wanted to make him out guilty. He did not notice the snare. He had been taught that it was sinful to say that one was not a Catholic; and thought perchance that it was forbidden also to throw the burden of proof on the persecutors, as is the custom of those that are wary. So like a right-hearted, godly, and courageous man, as he was, he frankly answered that he had been reconciled. He was at once handcuffed, and thrown into prison. At his trial he made another good confession of his faith, declaring that he gloried in being a Catholic. He received the sentence of death with joy. Whilst it was being pronounced, and he standing before the judges the while, of a sudden the gyves were loosened of themselves, and dropped off his legs. They were replaced by the gaoler, and if I mistake not, dropped off a second time. He was led back to prison, whence, shortly before his martyrdom, he wrote me a letter full of thanks for having made him a Catholic, and helped (though little indeed) to place him in those dispositions, which he hoped would soon meet with their reward from God. He also sent me the purse which he was used to bear about with him : I use it now, in honour of the martyr, to carry my reliquary in.

" As he was being drawn to the place of punishment, he was met by a certain Earl [the Earl of Rutland], in company with other gentlemen. The Earl seeing him dragged on the hurdle, asked what he had been guilty of. The martyr overheard him, and answered : ' Of no offence against the Queen or State. I am to die for the Catholic faith.' The Earl, seeing him to be a stalwart and comely man, said : ' By my troth, thou wast made rather for gallantry than for martyrdom.'

"' As for the matter of gallantry,' the martyr answered, 'I call God to witness, that I die a virgin.' This statement I can myself confirm. The Earl was much struck at what he heard; and from that time began to look upon Catholics and their religion in a better light, as he has often since given proof. So the holy man went to Heaven, where I doubt not that he pleads before the throne of God for his unworthy father in Christ."

John Rigby was martyred at St. Thomas Waterings on the 21st of June 1600. He was very barbarously executed, and he was sentenced to the death of a traitor for no crime but for having been reconciled to the Catholic Church. His life was frequently offered to him if he would attend the Protestant church. He was a younger son of Nicholas Rigby of Harrock, in the parish of Eccleston in Lancashire.

"During my stay in this prison, I found means to give the Spiritual Exercises. The gaoler did as I wished him to do; he never came to me without being called, and never went into my neighbours' rooms at all. So we fitted an upper chamber to serve as a chapel, where six or seven made the Exercises, all of whom resolved to follow the counsels of Christ our Lord, and not one of them flinched from his purpose.

"I found means also to provide for a very pressing need. Many priests of my acquaintance, being unable to meet with safe lodgings when they came to London, used to put up at inns till they had settled the business that brought them. Again, as my abode was fixed, and easy to find, the greater part of the priests that were sent from the seminaries abroad had instructions to apply to me, that through me they might be introduced to their Superior, and might receive other assistance at my hands. Not having always places prepared, nor houses of Catholics to which I could send them, I rented a house and garden in a suitable spot, and furnished it, as far as was wanted, by the help of my friends. Thither I used to send those who brought letters of recommendation from our Fathers, and who I was assured led a holy life and seemed well fitted for the mission. I maintained them there, till I had supplied them, through the aid of certain friends, with clothes and necessaries, sometimes even with a residence, or with a horse to go to their friends and kinsmen in the country. I covered all the expenses of this house with the alms that were bestowed on me. I did not receive alms from many persons, still less from all that came to see me; indeed, both out of prison and in prison, I often refused such offers. I was afraid that if I always accepted what was offered, I might scare from me souls that wished to treat with me on the business of their salvation ; or receive gifts from those that could either ill afford it, or would afterwards repent of it. I made it a rule therefore, never to take alms except from a small number of persons, whom I knew well. Most of what I got was from those devoted friends, who offered me not only their money but themselves, and looked upon it as a favour when I took their offer.

St Ann Line
"I gave charge of this house to a very godly and discreet matron of good birth, (Ann Line) 4 Her maiden name was Heigham, but she bore the name of Line from her deceased husband. Both she and her husband were beloved by God, and had much to suffer for His sake. This lady's father was a Protestant, and when he heard of his daughter's becoming a Catholic, he withheld the dower which he had promised her. He disinherited one of his sons for the same reason. This son, called William Heigham, is now in Spain, a lay-brother of the Society. It is twenty-six years since I knew him [i.e. in 1583]. He was then a well-educated gentleman, finely dressed like other high-born Londoners. He supported a priest named Thomson, whom I afterwards saw martyred [at Tyburn on the 20th of April, 1586]. As soon as his father learned that he too had become a Catholic, he went and sold his estate, the rents of which were reckoned at 6,000 florins [600/.] yearly, that it might not pass to his son. The son was afterwards arrested for the faith, and he and his priest together, if I mistake not, were thrown into the prison of Bridewell, where vagrants are shut up and put to hard labour under the lash. I paid him a visit there, and found him toiling at the tread-mill, all covered with sweat."
whom the Lord honoured with martyrdom,

Father Gerard's remembrances are borne out by the records.* In a list of " Recusants in the Counter in Wood-street, June 14, 1586," we meet "William Heigham and Roger Line, gentlemen. They were taken without Bishopsgate at mass with Blackborne alias Tomson that was hanged. They are in execution for a hundred marks apiece. They have been divers times examined before Mr. Justice Young." In another list we are told that they were "Line, Heigham, gentlemen under 19 years"; and in a third we learn that " Roger Line [was] committed by Sir Francis Walsingham the 19th of February, 1585[6], and William Heigham [was] committed by his Honour also, the 30th of July 1585."

" On recovering his freedom, he hired himself out as a servant to a gentleman, that had to wife a Catholic lady whom I knew. She intrusted her son to his care : he taught the boy the groundwork of the Latin tongue, besides giving him lessons on the harp, which he himself touched admirably. I went to see him in this situation, and had a long talk with him about his call to his present state.

" Mistress Line, his sister, married a good husband and a staunch Catholic. He had been heir to a fine estate ; but his father or uncle (for he was heir to both) sent a message from his death-bed to young Line, then a prisoner for the faith, asking him to conform and go to some heretical church for once, otherwise he would have to give up his inheritance to his younger brother. ' If I must either give up God or the world' was his courageous answer, ' I prefer to give up the world, for it is good to cleave unto God.' So both his father's and his uncle's estate went to his younger brother. I saw this latter once in his elder brother's room, dressed in silk and other finery, while his brother had on plain and mean clothes. This good man afterwards went into Belgium, where he obtained a pension from the King of Spain, part of which he sent to his wife ; and thus they lived a poor and holy life. His death, which happened in Belgium, left his widow friendless, so that she had to look to Providence for her support. Before my imprisonment, she had been charitably taken by my entertainers into their own house. They furnished her with board and lodging, and I made up the rest.

" She was just the sort of person that I wanted as head of the house that I have spoken of, to manage the money matters, take care of the guests, and meet the inquiries of strangers. She had good store of chanty and wariness, and in great patience she possessed her soul. She was nearly always ill from one or other of many divers diseases, which purified her and made her ready for Heaven. She used often to say to me, ' Though I desire above all things to die for Christ, I dare not hope to die by the hand of the executioner; but perhaps the Lord will let me be taken some time in the same house with a priest, and then be thrown into a chill and filthy dungeon, where I shall not be able to last out long in this wretched life.' Her delight was in the Lord, and the Lord granted her the desires of her heart.

" When I was rescued out of prison, she gave up the management of my house ; for then so many people knew who she was, that her being in a place was enough to render it unsafe for me. So a room was hired for her in another person's house, where she often used to harbour priests. One day (it was the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin) she let in a great many Catholics to hear mass, a thing which she would never have done in my house. Good soul, she was more careful of me than of herself. Some neighbours noticed the throng, and called the constables. They, went upstairs into the room, which they found full of people. The celebrant was Father Francis Page, of the Society of Jesus, who was afterwards martyred. 6 He had pulled off his vestments before the priest-hunters came in ; so that they could not readily make out which was the priest. However, from the father's grave and modest look, they thought that he must be their man. Accordingly they laid hold of him, and began questioning him and the others also. No one would own that there was a priest there; but as the altar had been found ready for mass, they acknowledged that they had been waiting for a priest to come.

1 This was a prison in Southwark, adjoining the palace of the Bishops of Winchester. In Father More's Latin narrative it appears as Atrium Wintoniense. "It was a small place of confinement on the Bankside, called the Clink from being the prison of the ' Clink liberty or manor of Southwark ' belonging to the Bishops of Winchester." Brayley, History of Surrey, vol. v p. 348.

2 Father Garnet writes, November 19, 1594: "Sir Thomas Wilks goeth into Flanders, as it is thought for peace; whereupon the arraignment of the three Jesuits, Southwell, Walpole and Gerard is stayed. Gerard is in the Clink, somewhat free; the other two so close in the Tower that none can hear from them." Stonyhurst MSS. Father Grene's Collection. P. vol. ii. p. 550.

3 "He is a very slender, brown little fellow."—Confession of Ralph Miller : P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. clxxiii. n. 64. Brother Emerson had in 1594 spent more than three years in the Counter and ten in the Clink. Troubles, Second Series, p. 43.

4 Anne Line was executed at Tyburn, February 27, ,601, for harbouring a Catholic priest. "She told her confessor, some years before her death that Mr. Thomson (Blackburn,, a former confessor of hers, who ended his days by martyrdom in 1586, had promised her, that if God should make him worthy of that glorious end, he would pray for her, that she might obtain the like happiness." Challoner from Champney's MS. History.

P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cxc. n. 33; vol. cxci. n. 37 ; vol. cxcv.

6 Father Francis Page SJ. suffered at Tyburn, April 20, 1602, for his priesthood.