Monday, 20 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 22.

"While I remained in this prison, I sent over numbers of boys and young men to Catholic seminaries abroad. Some of these are, at this present, priests of the Society, and engaged on the English Mission: others still remain in the seminaries, in positions of authority, to assist in training labourers for the same field. On one occasion I had sent two boys on their way to St. Omers, and had given them letters of recommendation, written with lemon-juice, so that the writing was not visible on the paper.

In the paper itself I wrapped up a few collars, so that it might seem that its only use was to keep the collars clean. The boys were taken, and, on being questioned, confessed that I had sent them. They let out also that I had given them this letter, and had told them, when they came to a certain college of ours, by which they had to pass to reach St. Omers (for they had to pass by Ostend, which is not the usual way, and thus they came to be taken), to bid the fathers steep the paper in water, and they would be able to read what I had written. On this information, then, the paper was steeped by the authorities,, and two letters of mine were read, written on the same paper. One was written in Latin to our Belgian Fathers ;, this I had consequently signed with my own proper name. The other was addressed to our English fathers at St. Omers. The letters having been thus discovered, I was sent for to be examined.

" Young however was no longer to be my examiner.. He had died in his sins, and that most miserably. As he lived, so he died 1 he lived the devil's confessor, he died the devil's martyr : for not only did he die in the devil's service, but he brought on his death through that very service. He was accustomed to work night and day to increase the distress of the Catholics, and to go forth frequently in inclement weather, at one or two o'clock in the morning, to search their houses. By these labours he fell into a consumption, 2 of which he died. He died moreover overwhelmed with debt, so that it might be clear that he abandoned all things for the devil's service. Notwithstanding all the emoluments of his office, all the plunder he took from the persecuted Catholics, and the large bribes they were constantly giving him to buy off his malicious oppression, his debts were said to amount to no less a sum than a hundred thousand florins [10,000/.] ; and I have heard even a larger sum mentioned than this. Perhaps he expected the Queen would pay his debts; but she did nothing of the sort. All she did, was to send a gentleman from the Court to visit him, when he was confined to his bed and near death; and this mark of favour so delighted him, that he seemed ready to sing Nunc dimittis. But it was a false peace, and the lifting up of the soul that goes before a fall; and like another Aman, he was bidden not to a banquet, but to execution, and that for ever. So with his mouth full of the Queen's praises, and his great obligations to her Majesty, he died a miserable death, and anguish took the place of his joy. The joy of the hypocrite is but for an instant.

" This man's successor in the office of persecuting and harassing the servants of God, was William [Waad or] Wade, now Governor of the Tower of London, but at that time Private Secretary of the Lords of the Council. For the members of the Council choose always to have a man in their service, to whose cruelty anything particularly odious may be attributed, instead of its being supposed to be done by their warrant. This Wade then sent for me, and first of all showed me the blank paper that I had given the boys, and asked me if I recognized it. I answered : 'No, I do not' And in fact I did not recognize it, for I did not know the boys had been taken. Then he dipped the paper in a basin of water, and showed me the writing, and my name subscribed in full. When I saw it, I said: ' I do not acknowledge the writing. Any one may easily have counterfeited my handwriting and forged my signature ; and if such boys as you speak of have been taken, they may perhaps in their terror say anything that their inquisitors want them to say, to their own prejudice and that of their friends ; a thing I will never do. At the same time, I do not deny that it would be a good deed to send such boys abroad to be better educated; and I would gladly do it, if I had the means; but closely confined as I am in prison, I cannot do anything of the kind, though I should like to do it.'

" He replied to me with a torrent of abuse for denying my signature and handwriting, and said : ' In truth, you have far too much liberty; but you shall not enjoy it long.' Then he rated the gaoler soundly, for letting me have so much freedom."

Father Bartoli in his Inghilterra 3 has the following passage about Father Gerard, whom he knew personally at Rome. "At his first entrance into this prison (the Clink) he procured himself a habit of the Society, and continued to wear it from that time forward, even in the face of all London, when he was being taken to his different examinations ; so that the people crowded to see a Jesuit in his habit, while the preachers were all the more exasperated at what they thought an open defiance of them."

This proceeding at that time was not anything very exceptional, for Father Weston in his narrative 4 gives it as one of the signs that warned Catholics that Anthony Tyrrel was wavering in his faith, that without any necessity, in the Clink prison, he would wear secular dress. His own clerical costume in prison he mentions as a matter of course. "On the succeeding day I set out, having changed my habit for secular clothes."

Father Gerard thus mentions his own practice. " I was sent for on two or three other occasions, to be examined ; and whenever I came out of this prison I always wore a Jesuit's cassock and cloak, which I had had made as soon as I came among Catholic fellow-prisoners. The sight of this dress raised mocks from the boys in the streets, and put my persecutors in a rage. On the first occasion, they said I was a hypocrite. I replied : ' When I was arrested,  you called me a courtier, and said that I had dressed myself in that fashion in order to disguise my real character, and to be able to deal with persons of rank in safety and without being recognized. I told you then that I did not like a layman's dress, and would much rather wear my own. Well, now I am doing so ; and you are in a rage again. In fact, you are not satisfied with either piping or mourning, but you seek excuses for inveighing against me.'

" To this they answered : ' Why did you not go about in this dress before, instead of wearing a disguise, and taking a false name ? A thing no good man would do.'

" I replied : ' I am aware you would like us not to do so, in order that we might be arrested at once, and not be able to do any good in the work of rescuing and gaining souls. But do you not know that St. Raphael personated another, and took another name, in order that, not being known, he might better accomplish God's work for which he had been sent.'

"At another time I was examined before the Dean of Westminster, the dignitary who has taken the place of the former Abbot of the great royal monastery there. Topcliffe and some other commissioners were present. Their object was to confront me with the good widow, my host's mother, of whom I have before spoken; and who was confined at this time in a prison 5 near the church at Westminster ; for she was not yet condemned to death ; that happened later. They wanted to see if she recognized me. So when I came into the room where they brought me, I found her already there. When she saw me coming in with the gaolers, she almost jumped for joy: but she controlled herself, and said to them : ' Is that the person you spoke of ? I do not know him ; but he looks like a priest.'

" Upon this she made me a very low reverence, and I bowed in return. Then they asked me if I did not recognize her.

" I answered : ' I do not recognize her.' 6 At the same time, you know this is my usual way of answering, and I will never mention any places, or give the names of persons that are known to me (which this lady however is not); because to do so, as I told you before, would be contrary both to justice and charity.'

" Then Topcliffe said : ' Tell the truth: have you reconciled any person to the Church of Rome?'

" I quite understood his blood-thirsty intention, that being a thing expressly prohibited under penalty of high treason, as I mentioned before in the case of Master Rigby who was martyred ; but then I knew I was already as much compromised on account of my priesthood, and therefore I answered boldly: ' Yes, in truth I have received some persons, and I am sorry that I have not done this good service to more.'

"' Well,' said Topcliffe, ' how many would you like to have reconciled, if you could ? A thousand ?'

"' Certainly' I said, 'a hundred thousand, and many more still, if I could.'

" ' That would be enough,' said Topcliffe, ' to levy an army against the Queen.'

"'Those whom I reconciled,' said I, 'would not be against the Queen, but all for her; for we hold that obedience to superiors is of obligation.'

"' No such thing,' said Topcliffe, ' you teach rebellion.

See, I have here a Bull of the Pope, granted to Sanders 7 when he went to Ireland to stir up the Queen's subjects to rebellion. See, here it is. Read it.'

" I answered : ' There is no need to read it. It is likely enough that the Pontiff, if he sent him, gave him authority. But I have no power to meddle at all in such matters. We are forbidden to have anything to do with such things. I never have, and never will.'

" ' Take and read it' he said : ' I will have you read it.' " So I took it, and seeing the name of Jesus on the top, I reverently kissed it.

" ' What,' said Topcliffe, 'you kiss a Bull of the Pope, do you ?'

"' I kissed,' said I, ' the name of Jesus, to which all love and honour are due. But if it is a Bull of the Pope, as you say, I reverence it also on that score.'

"And so saying, I kissed the printed paper again. Then Topcliffe, in a furious passion, began to abuse me with indecent accusations.

" At this insolence, to own the truth, I somewhat lost command of myself; and though I knew that he had no grounds which seemed probable even to himself for what he said, but had uttered it from pure malice, I exclaimed : " I call the great and blessed God to witness, that all your insinuations are false.'

" And, as I spoke, I laid my hand on the book that was open before me on the table. It was a copy of the Holy Bible, but according to their corrupt translation into the vulgar tongue. Then Topcliffe held his peace; but the Dean took up the word.

"' Are you willing,' said he, 'to be sworn on our Bible?' The better instructed Catholics, who can show the dishonesty of that translation, usually refuse to do this.

" I replied : ' In truth, under the necessity of rebutting this man's false charges at once, I did not take notice what version this was. However, there are some truths, as for instance the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, that have not been corrupted by mis-translation ; and by these I call the truth of God to witness. There are many other things falsely rendered, so as to involve heresies; and these I detest and anathematize.'

" So saying, I laid my hand again upon the book, and more firmly than before. Then the old man was angry, and said : ' I will prove that you are a heretic.'

" I replied : ' You cannot prove it.'

" ' I will prove it,' he said,' thus : Whoever denies Holy Scripture is a heretic : you deny this to be Holy Scripture : Ergo'

" I replied : ' This is no true syllogism; it shifts from general to particular, and so has four terms'

" The old man answered : * I could make syllogisms before you were born.'

"'Very likely,' I said; 'but the one you have just produced is not a true one.'

" However, the good old man 8 would not try a new middle-term, and made no further attempt to prove me a heretic. But one urged one thing, and another another, not in the way of argument, but after their usual plan, asking me such questions as they knew very well I did not like to answer; and then, in the end, they sent me back to prison.


Amongst Father Gerard's converts at this time there was one whose history is thus recorded in the Chronicle of St. Monica's, Louvain. "Unto this conversion and calling to religion of our first subprioress, Sister Elizabeth Shirley [whom Father Gerard in one of his letters calls his cousin], we will adjoin another of the elders, to wit, Sister Anne Brumfield, because it showeth evidently with what a powerful hand Almighty God calleth some unto Him amidst all the pleasures of the world, and how the Divine Wisdom, having in the forementioned disposed things sweetly, in this disposed them strongly. She was daughter to Edward Brumfield, Esquire in the county of Surrey, who living long a schismatic, yet some two years before his death was reconciled and died a good Catholic. After whose decease his widow, named Catherine Fromans before her marriage, being a gentlewoman of very fine behaviour and having good friends, was called to the Court of Queen Elizabeth and made mother to the Maids of Honour. Not being a Catholic as her deceased husband, but only well-minded, she then took this her daughter Anne to the Court at the age of sixteen, where for four years she gave herself wholly to the pleasures and delights of the world, yet that so being of a high mind and aiming at greater matches than her degree, she never was enthralled in the love of any man amidst the occasions of such a Court as that was, for Almighty God, Who intended to satisfy her aspiring mind with no less than Himself and to bring her into a higher estate than [that] of any worldly nobility, permitted not His future spouse to be defiled with sensual love: but behold, against the time of a great marriage in the Court, when she supposed to have had abundant pleasure and follies, suddenly all is turned quite contrary, for so great a cloud of affliction invadeth her mind, and so deep a melancholy accompanied with horrible and desperate temptations, that all the pleasures of the Court were turned now into sorrows, her feasting into mourning, her tears poured forth amain whenever she could get out of company, and being once gotten alone, which was very hard to do in that place, and lamenting according to her custom her great misfortune that she should take comfort in nothing and knew not what should help her, it came suddenly to her mind that she must leave the world and become a nun, having heard some speech in her infancy of Religious Houses and nuns in old time, as also having been taught her Pater nosier^ Ave Maria, Creed, and Jesus Psalter, all which prayers worldly pleasures had now brought to oblivion. She finding this notion in her mind, and not knowing how to compress the same, being as yet no Catholic, neither having notice of Religious Houses, notwithstanding one day she disclosed it unto a person who put her quite out of thinking upon religion. Thereupon her mother, desirous to help her, seeing [her] to spend the nights in tears as she lay by her, would give her to read a book of Catholic prayer; so that now affliction made her call to mind her old prayers. But nothing availed to comfort her; the Court was loathsome, all things disgustful, and she knew not what ailed her. Her mother hereupon sends her into the country to a married sister of hers, to see if that would help her, but all recreation made her worse and worse, so that at length she thought by main violence to get her pleasure again in the world. She therefore desired her mother to send for her to the Court, which she did, but our Lord would have the mastery, and therefore coming back to Court again, her afflictions are renewed, no contentment can enter her mind, insomuch that looking out of window she thought a dog more happy than herself because it had not trouble of mind. Almighty God forgot her not in this case, but one day a gentleman that was a Catholic, though unknown, coming to the Court and seeing her so sad and melancholy, asked what she wanted. Whereunto she answered she knew not what to do, nor what would help her, she was in such affliction of mind. He answered that he would bring her to one who should help her. She regarded not then his words, being overwhelmed with affliction; but some days after, he coming there again, she desired him for God's sake to bring her to one as he had said the other day, who thereupon brought her to Father Garret [Gerard], who instructed her in Catholic religion and reconciled her, whereupon her mind was

so quieted that she became contented. But yet she could take no pleasure in the world, therefore [she] left the Court, and lived as the said Father appointed order for her. At length she discovered to him how she was moved to undertake a religious life, and he very much applauded her mind and animated her therein. Then considering what Order to choose, she had most mind to the Clarisses' Order, until one day she felt it sensibly, as it were, said in her mind that she must go to St. Ursula's, for she had long before heard one speak of such a cloister in Louvain, whereupon Father Garret sought for means to help her over, but being taken and clapped up in the Tower, he left order with Father Garnet, his Provincial, to help her, which he did, and sent her over with another, to wit Sister Mary Welch, so that the day twelvemonth that she was reconciled to the Church, she was on the sea for religion."

1 Qualis vita, finis ita.— MS.

2 Morbum regium.— MS. Consumption is a form of scrofula or King's-evil, and seems to be the form most likely to be brought on by the causes here mentioned. In classical Latin, however, morbus regins signifies-jaundice, and this may be the meaning here.

3 Lib. v. cap. 13.

Troubles, Second Series, pp. 204, 209.

5 The Gatehouse prison, near the west end of the Abbey, "is so called of two gates, the one out of the College court towards the north, on the east side whereof was the Bishop of London's prison for clerks convict; and the other gate, adjoining the first, but towards the west, is a gaol or prison for offenders thither committed." Stow, p. 176.

6 We must here refer our readers to a note on a former passage (p. 163). It will be noticed that when such answers as the above are given, the speaker often adds something to show the questioner that he has no right to expect a true answer, and consequently no ground for trusting the present answer to be a true one.

7 The celebrated theologian and controversialist, Dr. Sanders, was sent as Papal Legate into Ireland by Gregory XIII. in 1579.

8 Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster from 1561 to 1601.