Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 32.


"WHEN I came to this lady's house, she had a great number of servants, some heretics, others indeed Catholics, but allowing themselves too much liberty. By degrees we got things into better order: some I made Catholics of, others through public and private exhortations became by the grace of God more fervent; in some cases where there did not appear any hope of amendment, I procured their dismissal, and among these was he who had chiefly opposed the former priest of whom I spoke. There was another also whom we could not correct as soon as we wished, and who brought great trouble on us. For on one occasion when we were in London, either from thoughtlessness or loquacity, or because the yoke of a stricter discipline, now begun in the family, sat uneasily upon him, he said to a false brother, that I had lately come to live at his lady's house, and had carried on such doings there ; and that I was then at London at such a house, naming the house of which I rented half, as I have before said; he told him also that he had gone to that house with his lady, at a time when she and I were in town on business connected with her son. My hostess had now returned into the country with this servant, leaving me for a short time in town. But the man had left this tale behind him, which soon came to the ears of the Council, how that I had my residence with such a lady, and was at this moment at such a house in London. They instantly therefore commissioned two justices of the peace to search the house.

" I, who had no inkling of such a danger, had remained in town for certain business, and was giving a Retreat to three gentlemen in the house before mentioned. One of these three gentlemen was Master Roger Lee, now Minister in the English College of St. Omers. He was a gentleman of good family, and of so noble a character and such winning manners that he was a universal favourite, especially with the nobility, in whose company he constantly was, being greatly given to hunting, hawking, and all other noble sports. He was indeed excellent at everything, but he was withal a Catholic, and so bent on the study of virtue that he was meditating a retreat from the world, and a more immediate following of Christ. He used frequently to visit me when I was in the Clink prison, and I clearly saw that he was called to greater things than catching birds of the air ; and that he was meant rather to be a catcher of men. I had now therefore fixed a time with this gentleman and good friend of mine, in which he should seek out by means of the Spiritual Exercises the strait path that leads to life, under the guidance of Him Who is Himself the Way and the Life.

" But while he and the others were engaged privately in their chambers in the study of this heroic philosophy, suddenly the storm burst upon us. I too, in fact, after finishing my business in town, had taken the opportunity of a little quiet to begin my own retreat, giving out that I had returned into the country. I was now in the fourth day of the retreat, when about three o'clock in the afternoon John Lilly hurried up to my room and without knocking entered with his sword drawn.

" Surprised at this sudden intrusion, I asked what was the matter.

" 'It is a matter of searching the house.' he replied. "' What house ?'

" ' This very house ; and they are in it already!' " In fact they had been cunning enough to knock gently, as friends were wont to do; and the servant opened readily to them, without the least suspicion until he saw them rush in and scatter themselves in all directions.

" While John was telling me this, up came the searching party, together with the mistress of the house, to the very room in which we were. Now just opposite to my room was the chapel, so that from the passage the door of the chapel opened on the one hand, and that of my room on the other. The magistrates then, seeing the door of the chapel open, went in, and found there an altar richly adorned, and the priestly vestments laid out close by, so handsome as to cause expressions of admiration from the heretics themselves. In the meanwhile I in the room opposite, was quite at my wit's ends what to do; for there was no hiding-place in the room, nor any means of exit except by the open passage where the enemy were. However, I changed the cassock which I was wearing for a secular coat, but my books and manuscript meditations which I had there in considerable quantities I was quite unable to conceal.

" We stood there with our ears close to the chink of the door, listening to catch what they said: and I heard one exclaim from the chapel; ' Good God ! what have we found here! I had no thoughts of coming to this house today!' From this I concluded that it was a mere chance search, and that they had no special warrant. Probably therefore, I thought, they had but few men with them. So we began to consult together whether it were not better to rush out with drawn swords, seize the keys from the searching party, and so escape; for we should have Master Lee and the master of the house to help us, besides two or three men-servants. Moreover, I considered that if we should be taken in the house the master would certainly be visited with a far greater punishment than what the law prescribes for resistance to a magistrate's search.

" While we were there thus deliberating, the searchers came to the door of my room and knocked. We made no answer, but pressed the latch hard down, for the door had no bolt or lock. As they continued knocking, the mistress of the house said, ' Perhaps the man-servant who sleeps in that room may have taken away the key. I will go and look for him.'

" ' No, no ;' said they, ' you go nowhere without us ; or you will be hiding away something.'

" And so they went with her, not staying to examine whether the door had a lock or not. Thus did God blind the eyes of the Assyrians that they should not find the place, nor the means of hurting His servants, nor know where they were going.

"When they had got below stairs, the mistress of the house, who had great presence of mind, took them into a room in which some ladies were, viz., the sister 2 of my hostess in the country, and Mistress Line; and while the magistrates were questioning these ladies she ran up to us saying, ' Quick ! quick ! get into the hiding-place!' She had scarce said this and run down again, before the searchers had missed her and were for remounting the stairs. But she stood in their way on the bottom step, so that they immediately suspected what the case was, and were eager to get past. This, however, they could not do without laying forcible hands on the lady, a thing which as gentlemen they shrank from doing. One of them, however, as she stood there purposely occupying the whole width of the stair-way, thrust his head past her, in hopes of seeing what was going on above stairs. And indeed he almost caught sight of me as I passed along to the hiding-place. For as soon as I heard the lady's words of warning, I opened the door, and with the least possible noise mounted from a stool to the hiding-place, which was arranged in a secret gable of the roof. When I had myself mounted, I bade John Lilly come up also : but he more careful of me than of himself, refused to follow me, saying : ' No, Father; I shall not come. There must be some one to own the books and papers in your room ; otherwise, upon finding them, they will never rest till they have found you too.'

"So spoke this truly faithful and prudent servant, so full of charity as to offer his life for his friend. There was no time for further words. I acquiesced reluctantly, and closed the small trap-door by which I had entered; but I could not open the door of the inner hiding-place, so that I should infallibly have been taken if they had not found John Lilly, and mistaking him for a priest ceased from any further search. For this was what happened— God so disposing it, and John's prudence and intrepidity helping thereto.

"For scarcely had he removed the stool by which I mounted, and had gone back to the room and shut the door, when the two chiefs of the searching party again came up stairs, and knocked violently at the door, ready to break it open if the key were not found. Then the intrepid soldier of Christ threw open the door and presented himself undaunted to the persecutors.

" ' Who are you ?' they asked.

"'A man, as you see :' he replied.

"' But what are you ? Are you a priest ?'

"' I do not say I am a priest,' replied John ; ' that is for you to prove. But I am a Catholic certainly.'

"Then they found there on the table all my meditations, my breviary, and many Catholic books, and what grieved me most of all to lose, my manuscript sermons and notes for sermons, which I had been writing or compiling for the last ten years, and which I made more account of perhaps than they did of all their money. After examining all these, they asked whose they were. "' They are mine ; ' said John.

"' Then there can be no doubt you are a priest. And this cassock—whose is this ?'

"'That is a dressing-gown, to be used for convenience now and then.'

" Convinced now they had caught a priest, they carefully locked up all the books and writings in a box, to be taken away with them ; then they locked the chapel-door, and put their seal upon it; and taking John by the arm, they led him down stairs, and delivered him into the custody of their officers. Now when he entered with his captors into the room where the ladies were, he, who at other times was always wont to conduct himself with humility and stand uncovered in such company, now on the contrary after saluting them covered his head and sat down. Nay, assuming a sort of authority, he said to the magistrates: ' These are noble ladies; it is your duty to treat them with consideration. I do not indeed know them ; but it is quite evident that they are entitled to the greatest respect.'

"I should have mentioned that there was a second priest in the house with me, Father Pollen, 3 an old man, who had quite lately made his noviceship at Rome. He luckily had a hiding-place in his room, and had got into it at the first alarm.

"The ladies therefore now perceiving that I was safe, and that the other priest had also escaped, and seeing also John's assumed dignity, could scarce refrain from showing their joy. They made no account now of the loss of property, or the annoyance they should have to undergo from the suspicion of having had a priest in the house. They wondered indeed and rejoiced, and almost laughed to see John playing the priest; for so well did he do it as to deceive those deceivers, and divert them from any further search.

"The magistrates who had searched the house took away John Lilly with them, 4 and the master of the house also with his two men-servants, under the idea that all his property would be confiscated for harbouring a priest. The ladies, however, represented that they had merely come to pay an after-dinner visit to the mistress of the house, without knowing anything about a priest being there ; so they were let off on giving bail to appear when summoned. The same favour was ultimately shown to Master Roger Lee, though it was with greater difficulty the magistrates could be persuaded that he was only a visitor. At last then they departed well satisfied, and locked up their prisoners for the night to wait their morrow's examination.

" Immediately on their departure the mistress of the house and those other ladies came with great joy to give me notice ; and we all joined in giving thanks to God Who had delivered us all from such imminent danger by the prudence and fidelity of one. Father Pollen and I removed that very night to another place, lest the searchers should find out their error and return.

"The next day I made a long journey to my hostess' house in the country, and caused much fear, and then much joy, as I related all that God had done for us. Then we all heartily commended John Lilly to God in prayer. And indeed there was reason to do so. For the magistrates, making full inquiries the next day, found that John had been an apothecary in London for six or seven years, and then had been imprisoned in the Clink for eight or nine more, and that he had been the person who had communicated with me in the Tower, for the gaolers wife after her husband's flight had confessed so much. They saw therefore clearly that they had been tricked, and that John was not a priest, but a priest's servant; and they now began to have a shrewd suspicion, though rather too late, that I had been hidden at the time in the same house where they caught him, especially as they found so many books and writings which they did not doubt were mine. They sent therefore to search the house again, but they found only an empty nest, for the birds were flown.

"John was carried to the Tower, and confined there in chains. Then they examined him about my escape, and about all the places he had been to with me since. He, seeing that his dealings with the gaoler were already known to them, and desirous (if God would grant him such a favour) to lay down his life for Christ, freely confessed that it was he who had compassed my deliverance, and that he took great pleasure in the thought of having done so; he added that he was in the mind to do the same again, if occasion required, and opportunity offered. The gaoler, however, he exonerated, and protested that he was not privy to the escape. With regard to the places where he had been with me, he answered (as he had often been taught to do), that he would bring no one into trouble, and that he would not name a single place, for to do so would be a sin against charity and justice. Upon this they said they would not press him any further in words, but would convince him by deeds that he must tell them all they wanted. John replied: ' It is a thing that, with the help of God, I will never do. You have me in your power; do what God permits you.'

" Then they took him to the torture-chamber, and hung him in the way I have before described, and tortured him cruelly for the space of three hours. But nothing could they wring from him that they could use either against me or against others; so that from that time they gave up all hope of obtaining anything from him either by force or fear. Consequently they tortured him no more, but kept him in the closest custody for about four months to try and tire him into compliance. Failing also in this, and seeing that their pains availed them nothing, they sent him to another prison [Newgate], where prisoners are usually sent who are awaiting execution ; and probably it was their intention to deal that way with him, but God otherwise determined. For after a long detention here, and having been allowed a little communication with other Catholic prisoners, he was asked by a certain priest to assist him in making his escape. Turning his attention therefore to the matter, he found a way by which he delivered both the priest and himself from captivity.

" I ought not, however, to omit an incident 5 that happened during his detention in the Tower, since it is in such things that the dealings of God's Providence are often to be very plainly recognized. While he was under examination about me and others of the Society, Wade, who was at that time the chief persecutor, asked him if he knew Garnet. John said he did not.

" ' No ?' said Wade, with a sour smile ; ' and you don't know his house in the Spital 6 either, I dare say ! I don't mind letting you know,' he continued, 'now that I have you safe, that I am acquainted with his residence, and that we are sure of having him here in a day or two to keep you company. For when he comes to London he puts up at that house, and then we shall catch him.'

"John knew well that the house named was Father Garnet's resort, and was in great distress to find that the secret had been betrayed to the enemy; and though kept as close as possible, yet he managed to get an opportunity of sending some little article wrapped up in blank paper to a friend in London. His friend on receiving it carefully smoothed out the paper and held it to the fire, knowing that John would be likely to communicate by the means of orange-juice if he had the opportunity : and there he found it written that this residence of Father Garnet's had been betrayed, and that Father Garnet must be warned of it. This was instantly done, and in this way the Father was saved, for otherwise he would assuredly, as Wade had said, have betaken himself to that house in a day or two. Now, however, he not only did not go, but took all his things away: so that when the house was searched a day or two later they found nothing. Had it not been for this providential warning from our greatest enemy, they would have found plenty: they would have found him, his books, altar-furniture, and other things of a similar nature. Father Garnet then escaped this time by John's good help, as I had done previously.

"After his escape John came to me; but though I desired much to keep him, it was out of the question, for he was now so marked a man that his presence would have been a continual danger for me and all my friends. For I was wont in the country to go openly to the houses of Catholic gentlemen, and it might well happen that John might come across persons that knew him, and would know me through him. Whereas but very few of the enemy knew me, for I was always detained in close custody, and none but Catholics saw me in prison ; nay, such Catholics only as I knew to be specially trustworthy. I had indeed been examined publicly in London several times, but the persons concerned in the examinations very seldom left town ; and if they had done so I should have been warned of it instantly, and should have taken good care never to trust myself in their neighbourhood. So I put John with Father Garnet, to stay in quiet hiding for a time; and when opportunity offered, sent him over to Father Persons, that he might obtain, what he had long hoped for, admission into the Society. He was admitted at Rome, and lived there six or seven years as a lay-brother, much esteemed I believe by everybody. I can on my part testify about him to the greater glory of God,—and that the more allowably because I believe he has died in England before this present writing, whither he returned with a consumption on him,—I can, I say, testify that for nearly six years that he was with me in England, and had his hands full of business for me, though he had to do with all sorts of men in all sorts of places (for while I was engaged upstairs with the gentry or nobility, he was associating downstairs with the servants, often enough very indifferent characters), yet the whole of this time he so guarded his heart and his soul that I never found him to have been even in danger of mortal sin; nay, most constantly in his confessions, unless he had added some venial sins of his past life, I should not have had sufficient matter for the sacrament. Truly his was an innocent soul, and endowed also with great prudence and cleverness.

"But now that I have brought the history of John Lilly to its close, it is time to return to myself, who having just escaped one danger, had like to have fallen into a second and still greater one, had not God again interposed His hand."

John Lilly entered the Society at Rome on the 2nd of February, 1602, 7 in his 37th year. He there remained for seven years and then had to leave Rome on account of his health. Father Persons in a letter 8 from Rome to Father Thomas Talbot, Master of Novices at St. John's, Louvain, dated May 16, 1609, says, " Brother John Lilly departed hence yesterday, May 15, together with Father Nelson, alias Neville, and George Dingley, all for your house, and Brother John cometh expressly for your companion and manuductor, and must not be diverted from that by any excuse, if he have his health ; nor suffered to write anything of moment, at least for one year."

This note is valuable as throwing light on the date of Father Gerard's autobiography, which it shows to have been written not before the second half of the year 1609. Brother Lilly did not leave Rome till the middle of May, and it was then intended by Father Persons that he should stay at Louvain. He may have reached Louvain in June and have then been found to be so ill that it was considered advisable to try at once whether the air of England might not be beneficial. When Father Gerard wrote he had heard that Lilly had gone to England, but he had not heard certain news of his death ; and he had also been informed that Brother Hugh Sheldon had succeeded him in his place with Father Persons at Rome. If, as seems most probable from his reckoning his money in florins, Father Gerard was himself at this time at Louvain, we see that his Autobiography might have been written during the second six months of 1609. That it was not written later is plain from the mention of Robert Drury's martyrdom, which took place on the 26th of February, 1606/7, and this Father Gerard has said was " two years ago from this present writing."

1 Roger Lee entered the Noviciate of St. Andrew's at Rome October 27, 1600, and died at Dunkirk in 1615, ӕt. 47. More's Hist. Prov. p. 266.

2 Elizabeth Vaux's sister was Mary Lady Lovel, the foundress of the English Teresian Convent at Antwerp. Supra, p. 63.

3 Father Tesimond relates a search in Sir John Fortescue's house about two years earlier than this, in which also Father Joseph Pollen escaped capture. Troubles, First Series, p. 176. This Father was ordained priest at Cambray on Holy Saturday, March 29, 1578. Ibid, Third Series, p. 106.

In the Public Record Office there is a letter which helps us to the date of John Lilly's capture. It is dated July 22, 1599, and purports to be from Francis Cordale to his partner, Balthasar Gybels, at Antwerp. " I wrote to you of one Mr. Hey wood's house searched and a man there taken. I have learned his name since to be John Lilly. He is sent to the Tower upon suspicion of helping Gerard the Jesuit out of the same place." Domestic •, Elizabeth, vol. cclxxi. n. 107.

5 This story is also told by Father Tesimond. Troubles, First Series, p. 179.

6 Tali loco qui vocatur Spitell. M.S. Spitalfields, a district without Bishopgate, once belonging to the Priory and Hospital of St. Mary Spital, founded in 1197, in the parish of St. Botolph. Cunningham's Handbook of London, p. 463.

7 Bartoli, Inghilterra, p. 429.

8 Stonyhurst MSS. Angl. A. vol. iii. n. 94; Records, vol. i. p. 455.

9 Supra, p. 89.