Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 31.

" In one of these excursions I visited a noble family, by whom I had long been invited and often expected, but I had never yet been able to visit them on account of my pressing occupations. Here I found the lady of the house, a widow, very pious and devout, but at this present overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her husband. She had indeed been so affected by this loss that for a whole year she scarce stirred out of her chamber, and for the next three years which had intervened before my visit, had never brought herself to go to that part of the mansion in which her husband had died. To this grief and trouble were added certain anxieties about the bringing up of her son, who was yet a child under his mother's care. He was one of the first barons of the realm ; but his parents had suffered so much for the faith, and had mortgaged so much of their property to meet the constant exactions of an heretical government, that the remaining income was scarcely sufficient for their proper maintenance. But a wise woman builds up a house and is proved in it."

This lady was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Roper, who was raised to the peerage in 1616 as Lord Teynham. In 1590 1 she married George, the second son of William, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, but her husband died in 1594, during the lifetime of his father. When in the following year her father-in-law also died, she was left in charge of her infant son Edward, fourth Baron Vaux of Harrowden. The family was conspicuous for its Catholicity, and suffered accordingly. William Lord Vaux wrote 2 to Lord Burghley, February 18, 1592, signing himself, "infortunatest peer of Parliament for poverty that ever was, W. Harowden;" and in the letter he says, "My parliament robes are at pawn to a citizen, where I have offered large interest (unable to disburse the principal) to borrow them for some few days, also offering my bond with surety to redeliver them, nevertheless I cannot obtain them."

William Lord Vaux had three sons, Henry, George, and Ambrose. The eldest, Henry, was one of that zealous band of young Catholic gentlemen who received Fathers Campion and Persons on their arrival in England in 1580. It is he who is meant, apparently, and who is named with Father Gerard, in the list 3 of " Persons to be sought after. August 9, 1586. The son of Sir Thomas Gerard. The Lord Vaux his son." It is not known when he died, but Father Persons, in his MS. Life of Campion, 4 written in 1594, thus speaks of him. "That blessed gentleman and saint, Mr. Henry Vaux, whose life was a rare mirror of religion and holiness unto all that knew him and conversed with him. He died most sweetly and comfortably in England, having resigned long before his death, and in his perfect health, his inheritance to the Barony to his younger brother, reserving only a small annuity to himself whereby to live in study and prayer all the days of his life without marrying as he full[y] resolved to do : and in like manner died his brother-in-law Mr. Brooks, son and heir to his father, and a great admirer and follower of Mr. Henry Vaux his virtues, as he might in the state of wedlock wherein he was." 5

Ambrose, the third son, was a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. John Withie 6 in 1635 calls him, in error, Prior of St. John of Jerusalem. He did not belong to the Order of Malta. The account of his knighthood is given in the MS. Chronicle of St. Monica's Convent at Louvain. After saying that Anthony Copley, the third son of Sir Thomas Copley, was banished with Sir Griffin Markham, it continues, " he gave himself after his coming on this side the seas to devotion, and took a voyage to the Holy Land together with Mr. Ambrose Vaux, and coming to Jerusalem, they were both knighted at our Lord's Sepulchre; as the manner is that when such pilgrims there as can show sufficient proofs to be of noble extraction and capable of knighthood, if they will undertake to observe the points there proposed, for to defend the honour of God in the manner set down, the Guardian of the Franciscan Convent there dubbeth them Knights. After they had performed their devotions, visiting the holy places, in their return home he died by the way, and Sir Ambrose Vaux coming home brought news of his death." In the Pilgrim-book of the English College at Rome 7 a visit of his on the 12th of August, 1609, is recorded.

Anne Vaux and Eleanor, the widow of Edward Brooksby, or Brooks, as Father Persons calls him, of whom such frequent mention is made as Father Garnet's hostesses, were half sisters of George Vaux. Their mother, William Lord Vaux's first wife, was Elizabeth, daughter of John Beaumont of Gracedieu in Leicestershire, while the mother of George Vaux was Mary, sister of Sir Thomas Tresham, of Rushton in Northamptonshire. The Catholicity of the whole family, and of all those connected with it, was undoubted, excepting it would seem George Vaux, who " became a Catholic before his death." Before going with Father Gerard to Mrs. Vaux's house, we may avail ourselves of the insight we obtain into her father-in-law's London house from the confession 8 of a spy called Ralph Myller, dated October 9, 1584. "This examinate did afterwards meet one Robert Brown, who hath an uncle a priest with the Lord Vaux, who is a little man with white head, and a little brown hair on his face, goeth in an ash-coloured doublet coat and a gown faced with cony, and he was made priest long sithence at Cambray, as this examinate thinketh. This examinate spoke with the Lord Vaux and with his lady at Hackney, after that his son Mr. George and the said Robert Browne had told him that this examinate was a tailor of Rheims; and on Sunday was fortnight, this examinate did hear mass there, whereat were present about eighteen persons, being my lord's household, and the priest last before-named said the mass. The said priest lieth in a chamber beyond the hall, on the left hand [of] the stair that leadeth to the chambers, and the mass is said in the chapel, being right over the port entering into the hall; and the way to it is up the stair aforesaid, on the left hand, at the further end of the gallery; and there is a very fair crucifix of silver."

It may seem rash with so few data as those given by Father Gerard to name the Jesuit Father who was with Mrs. Vaux before his arrival; but as there were but fifteen Fathers in England at the time, 9 and we know the whereabouts of them all, it may perhaps be allowable to conjecture that it was Father Richard Cowling, a Yorkshireman, 10 who came on the English mission in April 1596. Lord Salisbury's "Note of Jesuits that lurk in England" in 1601-2 assigns him to Mr. Bentley's in Northamptonshire.

Father Gerard says, " I found residing with this family one of our Fathers, a learned man and a good preacher: he had been a year in the house, but some of the household were prejudiced against him. The mistress, however, always showed him the utmost reverence, and was assiduous in approaching the Sacraments. On my arrival this good widow seemed to see her wishes fulfilled, and not only welcomed me most charitably, but appeared so changed from grief to joy, that some of her household represented to me that if I would come there oftener, still more if I could reside there permanently, they were assured she would lay aside that long-continued grief, and that both she herself and her affairs would soon be in a better condition. This I think they had from the mistress herself. For she soon took an opportunity of praising the happiness of my hosts, of whom she had heard much, not only about their domestic chapel and altar furniture, but also about their virtue and patience, which had been so tried in the fire of persecution. She added that she marvelled not that they went forward so steadfastly since they had such a guide; she also would be able to do the like, had she but like opportunity; then all her affairs would go well.

" I saw how much she was deceived in me, and how she thought of me above what was in me; I answered her therefore that she had even more and greater helps than they had, which was indeed but the truth. She rejoined that she had indeed a good and pious director whom she both much reverenced and loved; but that as he had never lived in the world, having always been with those who gave themselves to study, he was not so well able to judge what was best to be done in worldly affairs, and consequently some in the house were opposed to him.

"'These persons,' said I, 'are evidently not possessed of the true spirit, which supposes obedience and subordination : and they would treat me in like fashion were I living in the house.'

"' They should soon quit it then,' she replied, i even if they were ten times as necessary to me as they are.' In fact they had the principal charge of the household under their mistress.

" She besought me to make trial of her, whether or no she would be obedient in all that I might judge to be for the greater glory of God. I felt it impossible to reject such an offer from such a person, made as it was at a time when good reasons made it expedient that I should change my residence. Nay, it seemed to me clearer than noon-day that God s good providence had arranged this, as from the first day of my arrival in England it had directed me hither and thither, but always changing my position for the better, continually affording me additional means of becoming acquainted with greater numbers of persons, and those of higher rank, and of strengthening and guiding them in His service. I replied to her therefore, that I returned her my best thanks, and that I would mention her pious wish to my Superior: I added that there was one thing that inclined me to listen to her proposal, and this was that whereas elsewhere I had only a secular priest as companion, in her house I should have a member of the same Society with myself, and a person whom I much loved.

"On my return to London therefore I proposed the matter to Father Garnet, who was much rejoiced at the offer, knowing the place to be one where much good might be done both directly and indirectly. He said too that the offer had occurred most opportunely, for that there were some Catholics in another county more to the north, where there was no priest of the Society, who had been long petitioning for this very father, at present stationed at that house, and who would much rejoice at the prospect of having him among them. To this I urged that the place was large enough for two, and that I very much desired to have a companion of the Society with me. Father Garnet, however, had already determined to place another Father in that residence, on account of the opposition of which I have spoken ; and was therefore unwilling to let me have him for companion. I then requested that he would assign me Father John Percy, with whom I had become acquainted during my imprisonment, not indeed personally but by frequent interchange of letters. This father had been brought prisoner from Flanders to Holland, 11 where he was recognized and tortured ; he was afterwards thrown into the foul gaol of Bridewell, and after remaining there some time made a shift to escape from a window with another priest, letting himself down with a rope. Mistress Line made him welcome in my house, where he tarried for a time; but soon after went down into the county of York, and dwelt there with a pious Catholic. In this part he made himself so dear to every one, that though I had Father Garnet's consent, it was a full year before I could get him away from them.

" Since now to the desire of this noble widow was added the approval of Father Garnet, I so settled my affairs as to provide amply for the security and advantage of my former hosts [the Wisemans]. For I left with them Father Banks, a most superior man in every respect: and although at first my old friends did not value him so much, yet as they became better acquainted they found that the good account I had given them was no more than the truth, and soon came to esteem him as a father. I often afterwards visited their house, where I had found so great faith and piety.

" When I was domiciled in my new residence, I began by degrees to wean my hostess' mind from that excessive grief; showing how that we ought to mourn moderately only over our dead, and not to grieve like those who have no hope. I added that as her husband had become a Catholic before his death, one little prayer would do him more good than many tears: that our tears should be reserved for our own and others' sins, for our own souls stood in need of floods of that cleansing water, and it was to the concerns of our own souls that all our thoughts and labours turned. I then taught her the use of meditation, finding her quite capable of profiting by it, for her mental powers were of a very high order. I thus gradually brought her first to change that old style of grief for a more worthy one; then to give eternal concerns the preference over worldly matters; and to consider how she might transform her life, which before was good and holy, into better and holier, by endeavouring as much as she could to imitate the life of our Lord and of His saints. " In the first place therefore she resolved to lead an unmarried life; secondly to aim at poverty in this sense, that all her actual fortune, and all that she might ever have, should be devoted to the service of God and His ministers, while she herself should be but their servant to provide them with what was necessary: lastly, she gave herself above all to obedience, and determined to reduce her love of it to practice no less perfectly than if she had taken a vow: nay, it was her only trouble that it was forbidden to priests of our Society to receive such vows. In a word, it was her fixed resolve to imitate as closely as possible the life of Martha and the other holy women who followed our Lord, and ministered to Him and His Apostles. Consequently she was ready to set up her residence wherever I judged it best for our purposes, whether at London or in the most remote part of the island, as she often protested to me. I considered however that though a residence in or near London would be better for the gaining of souls, yet that it was not at present very safe for me; nor indeed could she remain there in private, since she was well known for a Catholic, and the Lords of the Council demanded from her frequent accounts of her son, the Baron, where and how he was educated. Moreover, as she had the management of her son's estate while he was a minor, stewards and bailiffs, and other such persons must have constant communication with her; so that it was quite out of the question her living near London under an assumed name; yet this was absolutely necessary if a person wished to carry on the good work in that neighbourhood. It was thus those ladies did with whom Father Garnet lived so long, who were in fact sisters of this lady's deceased husband, one unmarried, the other a widow. I saw therefore no fitter place for her to fix her residence than where she was among her own people, where she had the chief people of the county connected with her and her son, either by blood or friendship.

"The only difficulty which remained was about the exact spot. The house in which she was actually living was not only old, but antiquated. It had been the residence of her husband's father, who had married a wife who was a better hand at spending than at gathering, and consequently the house was very poorly appointed for a family of their dignity. There was another and a larger house of theirs at a distance of about three miles, which had been the old family seat. This had also been neglected, so that it was in some part quite ruinous, and not fit for our purpose, namely, to receive the Catholic gentry who might come to visit me. In addition to this, it was not well adapted for defence against any sudden intrusions of the heretics, and consequently we should not be able to be as free there as my hostess wished. Her desire was to have a house where we might as nearly as possible conform ourselves to the manner of life followed in our colleges : and this in the end she brought about.

"She sought everywhere for such a house, and we looked at many houses in the country: but something or other was always wanting to her wishes. At last we found a house which had been built by the late Chancellor of England, who had died childless, 12 and was now to be let for a term of years. It was truly a princely place, large and well-built, surrounded by gardens and orchards, and so far removed from other houses that no one could notice our coming in or going out. This house she took on payment of fifteen thousand florins [1,500/.], and began to fit it up for our accommodation. She wished to finish the alterations before we removed thither; but man proposes, and God disposes as He wills, though always for the best, and for the true good of His elect."

1 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. ccxxxiii n. 3.

2 Ellis' Original Letters, 3rd series, vol. iv. p. 109.

3 Brit. Mus. Harleian MSS. 360, f. 8.

4 Stonyhurst MSS. Father Grene's Collectan. P. f. 126.

5 "Ad hunc Henricum videtur scripta prima epistola Campiani in edit-Antwerp. 1631." Marginal note by Father Grene, Collectan. P. f. 151.

6 Brit. Mus. HarleiarTMS. 1073. Book of Arms by John Withie, who is also in error when he says that Henry Vaux " died a prisoner in the Tower of London."

7 " Die 12 Augusti [1609] exceptus fuit Dominus Ambrosius Vaux generosus et nobilis, quem famulus suus post tres dies assequutus pariter exceptus fuit Joannes.

8 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. clxxiii. n. 64.

9 Troubles, 1st series, p. 191.

10 Ibid, 3rd series, p. 280.

11 "He was sent to Tournay for his noviceship in 1594, and towards the end of the second year over application had so injured his head that he had to be forbidden to use any kind of prayer. Sent to recruit in his native air, he passed through Holland on his way to England. At Flushing he was taken by some English soldiers. The letter he was carrying showing who he was, they threatened him with torture unless he would say who had brought him over from Rotterdam. He was ready to confess anything about himself, but he would say nothing of any one else ; so, instead of offering, as he had hoped to do that day, the Sacrifice of the Body of Christ, he offered that of his own, to undergo anything rather than betray others. They hung him up by the hands to a pulley, and then tortured him by twisting a sailor's cord round his head. During the torture he fixed his mind on the eternity of either pain or joy, and uttered nothing but " O eternity ! " The harm the soldiers tried to do him turned out a remedy, for the head-ache and singing in the head, from which he had suffered in the noviceship, diminished from that time and gradually ceased. He was taken to London in custody and committed to Bridewell, where his cell was an utterly unfurnished turret. His bed was the brick floor and a little straw, till he was helped by the care and charity of his Catholic fellow prisoners, and of our Father Gerard. The latter, who was in the Clink, kept up a secret correspondence with him, and came to his help both with his advice and money. After about seven months he succeeded in making his escape through the tiling, together with two other priests and seven laymen." Father More, Historia ProvinciÓ•, 1. viii, c. 23.

12 Sir Christopher Hatton, who died childless, November 21, 1591, had built a country house at Stoke Pogis, Bucks. Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, 3rd edit. vol. ii. p. 180.