Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 8.

1588 and 1589.

"On my arrival in London, 1 by the help of certain Catholics I discovered Father Henry Garnet, who was then Superior. Besides him, the only others of our Society then in England were Father Edmund Weston [William Weston, commonly called Father Edmunds], confined at Wisbech (who, had he been at large, would have been Superior), Father Robert Southwell, and we two newcomers.

" My companion, Father Oldcorne, had already arrived, so the Superior was rather anxious on my account, as nothing had been heard of me ; but yet for that very reason hopes were entertained of my safety. It was with exceeding joy on both sides that we met at last. I stayed some time with the Fathers, and we held frequent consultations as to our future proceedings. The good Superior gave us excellent instructions as to the method of helping and gaining souls, as did also our dear Father Southwell, who much excelled in that art, being at once prudent, pious, meek, and exceedingly winning. As Christmas [1588] was nigh at hand, it was necessary to separate, both for the consolation of the faithful, and because the dangers are always greater in the great solemnities.

" I returned then to my friend in the county where I was first set ashore. This time the Superior provided me with clothes and other necessaries, that I might not be a burden to my charitable host at the outset. But afterwards, throughout the whole period of my missionary labours, the fatherly providence of God supplied both for me and for some others. My dress was of the same fashion as that of gentlemen of moderate means. The necessity of this was shown by reason and subsequent events; for, from my former position, I was more at ease in this costume, and could maintain a less embarrassed bearing than if I had assumed a character to which I was unaccustomed. Then, too, I had to appear in public, and meet many Protestant gentlemen, with whom I could not have held communication with a view to lead them to a love of the faith and a desire of virtue had I not adopted this garb. I found it helped me, not only to speak more freely and with greater authority, but to remain with greater safety, and for a longer interval of time, in any place or family to which my host introduced me as his friend and acquaintance.

" Thus it happened that I remained for six or eight months [of 1589], with some profit to souls, in the family of my first friend and host; during which time he took me with him to nearly every gentleman's house in the county. Before the eight months were passed I gained over and converted many to the Church; among whom were my host's brother [Charles], his two sisters [Jane Lumner and Grisel Woodhouse] and, later on, his brother-in-law [Sir Philip Woodhouse]. One of these two sisters, as I have before mentioned, was my friend's housekeeper, and had been all along a notable Calvinist. Her brother 2 is a judge, who even now is the most firm support of the Calvinist party. 3 This lady, having been brought up in his house, had been strongly imbued with this heresy. A very remarkable thing had happened to her some time previously. Being very anxious as to the state of her soul, she went to a certain doctor of the University of Cambridge, of the name of Perne, 4 who she knew had changed his religion some three or four times under different sovereigns, but yet was in high repute for learning. Going to this Doctor Perne, then, who was an intimate friend of her family, she conjured him to tell her honestly and undisguisedly what was the sound orthodox faith whereby she might attain Heaven. The doctor finding himself thus earnestly appealed to by a woman of discretion and good sense, replied, ' I conjure you never to disclose to another what I am going to say. Since, then, you have pressed me to answer as if I had to give account of your soul, I will tell you that you can, if you please, live in the religion now professed by the Queen and her whole kingdom, for so you will live more at ease, and be exempt from all the vexations the Catholics have to undergo ; but by no means die out of the faith and communion of the Catholic Church if you would save your soul.' Such was the answer of this poor man, but such was not his practice; for putting off his conversion from day to day, it fell out that, when he least expected, on his return home from dining with the pseudo-Archbishop of Canterbury, he dropped down dead as he was entering his apartment, without the least sign of repentance or of Christian hope of that eternal bliss which he had too easily promised to himself and to others after a life of a contrary tendency. She to whom he gave the above-mentioned advice was more fortunate than he, and though she at first by no means accepted his estimate of the Catholic faith, yet later on, having frequently heard from me that the Catholic faith alone was true and holy, she began to have doubts, and in consequence brought me an heretical work which had served to confirm her in her heresy, and showed me the various arguments it contained. I, on the other hand, pointed out to her the quibbles, the dishonest quotations from Scripture and the Fathers, and the misstatement of facts which the book contained. And so, by God's grace, from the scorpion itself was drawn the remedy against the scorpion's sting, and she has lived ever since constant in her profession of the Catholic faith, to which she then returned. "I must not omit mentioning an instance of the wonderful efficacy of the sacraments, as shown in the case of the married sister of my host [Lady Wood-house]. She had married a man of considerable position, and, being favourably inclined to the Church, she had been so well prepared by her brother, that it cost me but little labour to make her a child of the Catholic Church. After her conversion she endured much from her husband when he found that she refused to join in heretical worship, but her patience withstood and overcame all. It happened on one occasion that she was so exhausted after a difficult and dangerous labour, that her life was despaired of. A clever physician was at once brought from Cambridge, who on seeing her said that he could indeed give her medicine, but that he could give no hopes of her recovery, and having prescribed some remedies, he left. I was at that time on a visit to the house, having come, as was my wont, with her brother. The master of the house was glad to see us, although he well knew we were Catholics, and used in fact to confer with me on religious subjects. I had nearly convinced his understanding and judgment, but the will was rooted to the earth, 'for he had great possessions.' But being anxious for his wife, whom he dearly loved, he allowed his brother to persuade him, as there was no longer any hope for her present life, to allow her all freedom to prepare for the one to come. With his permission, then, we promised to bring in an old priest 5 on the following night; for those priests who were ordained before Elizabeth's reign were not exposed to such dangers and penalties as the others. We therefore made use of his ministry in order that this lady might receive all the rites of the Church. Having made her confession and been anointed, she received the holy Viaticum ; and, behold, in half an hour's time she so far recovered as to be wholly out of danger; the disease and its cause had vanished, and she had only to recover her strength. The husband, seeing his wife thus snatched from the jaws of death, wished to know the reason. We told him that it was one of the effects of the holy sacrament of Extreme Unction, that it restored bodily health when Divine Wisdom saw that it was expedient for the good of the soul. This was the cause of his conversion ; for admiring the power and efficacy of the sacraments of the true Church, he allowed himself to be persuaded to seek in that Church the health of his own soul. I, being eager to strike the iron while it was hot, began without delay to prepare him for confession; but not wishing just then that he should know me for a priest, I said that I would instruct him as I had been instructed by priests in my time. He prepared himself, and awaited the priest's arrival. His brother-in-law told him that this must be at night-time. So, having sent away the servants who used to attend him to his chamber, he went into the library, where I left him praying, telling him that I would return directly with the priest. I went down stairs and put on my cassock, and returned so changed in appearance that he, never dreaming of any such thing, was speechless with amazement. My friend and I showed him that our conduct was necessary, not so much in order to avoid danger, but in order to cheat the devil and to snatch souls from his clutches. He well knew, I said, that I could in no other way have conversed with him and his equals, and without conversation it was impossible to bring round those who were so ill-disposed. The same considerations served to dispel all anxieties as to the consequences of my sojourn under his roof. I appealed to his own experience, and reminded him that though I had been in continual contact with him, he had not once suspected my priestly character. He thus became a Catholic ; and his lady, grateful to God for this two-fold blessing, perseveres still in the faith, and has endured much since that time from the hands of heretics. 7

" Besides these, I reconciled to the Church during the period of my appearance in public more than twenty fathers and mothers of families, equal, and some even superior, in station to the above mentioned. For prudence' sake I omit their names. As for poor persons and servants, I received a great many, the exact number I do not remember. It was my good fortune, moreover, to confirm many weak and pusillanimous souls. I also received numbers of general confessions. Many, too, received at that time the inspiration to a more perfect life, among whom I may mention the present Father Edward Walpole, 8 professed of three vows, who was then living a good and pious life, and had to endure much for conscience' sake, and not from strangers only, ' for his enemies were those of his own household.' He was heir to a large estate, but his father was a Calvinist, and the rest of his family were also heretics. His father at his death disinherited him, and divided the estate between his younger brother and his mother, who was to hold one-half during her life-time, so that his only share was a yearly revenue of four hundred florins [40/.], on which he was then living. His father's house was less a home than a prison. He lived there without seeing or speaking to any one save at meals; the rest of the day he spent in his room, and he diligently read the Fathers and Doctors, as he had already studied humanities and philosophy at Cambridge. At that time he began to visit me, and to frequent the sacraments. He thus obtained that vocation which he followed a year after, when he went to Rome and entered the Society. He persuaded his cousin, Michael Walpole, who is now professed of the four vows, to accompany him. At this period of my story the latter was my assistant, and used to go with me as my confidential servant to the houses of those gentlemen with whom it was necessary for me to maintain such a position. The two cousins are now zealous labourers in the Lord's vineyard, and by their great abilities have made up for what my neglect or mediocrity has marred or left undone.

"After some six or seven months I received a visit from a Catholic gentleman of another county, a relative of one of my spiritual children, who was very desirous to make acquaintance with a Jesuit. He was a devout young man, and heir to a pretty considerable estate, one half of which came into his possession by his brother's death, the other portion being held for life by his mother, who was a good Catholic widow lady. Her son lived with her, and they kept a priest in the house. He had then sold a portion of the estate, and devoted the proceeds to pious uses, for he was fervent and full of charity. After the lapse of a few days, as I saw his aspirations to a higher life and his desires of perfection wax stronger, I told him that there were certain spiritual exercises, by means of which a well-disposed person could discover a short road to perfection, and be best prepared to make choice of a state of life. He most earnestly begged to be allowed to make them. I acceded to his request, and he made great spiritual profit thereby, not only in that he made the best choice, which was that he would enter the Society of Jesus as soon as possible, but also because he made the best and most proper arrangements to carry his purpose into execution, and to preserve meanwhile his present fervour. After his retreat, he expressed the greatest wish that I should come and live with him, and I had no rest until I proposed to submit the matter for my Superior's approval. For mine own part, I could not but reflect that my present public mode of life, though in the beginning it had its advantages, could not be long continued, because the more people I knew, and the more I was known to, the less became my safety, and the greater my distractions. Hence it was not without acknowledging God's special providence that I heard him make me this invitation. So, after having consulted with my Superior, and obtained his permission to accept the offer, I bade adieu to my old friends, and stationed a priest where they might conveniently have recourse to his ministry. He still remains there, to the great profit of souls, though in the endurance of many perils."

From an enemy we learn who Father Gerard's second host was, and the name of the place where he lived from the autumn of 1589 to that of 1591. William Watson, the priest who was executed for a plot against James I. soon after his accession, had occupied himself in attacking the Jesuits, for which he begged their pardon on the scaffold. He wrote against them a book that it was not penal to publish in England —"A Decacordon of ten Quodlibetical Questions concerning Religion and State," which was " newly imprinted in 1602." His attack on Father Gerard fortunately enables us to identify several of the persons who are not mentioned by name in the autobiography. This is the case here. "First, Father John Gerard was the man that caused Henry Drury to enter into this exercise [that is to say, to make a retreat, as Father Gerard has told us], and thereby got him to sell the manor of Losell in Suffolk and other lands to the value of 3,500/., and got all the money himself, the said Drury having chosen to be a lay-brother. Afterwards he sent him to Antwerp to have his novitiate by the Provincial there, by name Oliverius Manareus (for at that time Father Garnet had not his full authority to admit any), where after twelve or fourteen days he died, not without suspicion of some indirect dealing. Father Holt the Jesuit ascribed it unto the alteration of his diet, saying that he might have lived well enough if he had remained at home and not have come thither."9

We have come across a note 10 elsewhere of the use to which the proceeds of the sale of Losell were put. " The money raised by the sale of the estate of Mr. Drury, when he entered the Society, was divided amongst the clergymen in prison or otherwise in want, and among other poor Catholics labouring under persecution." In May 1587, before Father Gerard's arrival in England, " Henry Drury of Lawshull [Losell] in Suffolk, prisoner in the Marshal-sea," is mentioned 11 amongst "Common receivers, harbourers and maintainers of Jesuits and Seminary priests."

" Father Oldcorne and he [Father Gerard] met at London according to their appointment, and by good hap found the Superior [Father Garnet] then in London, though his ordinary abode were then [1588] in Warwickshire, almost a hundred miles from London." Father Gerard's Powder Plot, Condition of Catholics, p. 282.

2 In quibus erat unus frater hospitis mei, et sorores duo, et posted maritus sororis: quarum una erat ilia vidua qua erat in domo ejus ut materfamilias, et erat sane antea insignis Calvinista. Item soror cujusdam judicis, qui partes Calvini maxime fere omnium adhuc tuelur. MS. The translation of the latter portion of this ran thus as originally published, "I reconciled moreover the sister of a judge, &c." This was the chief difficulty in Dr Jessopp's way in identifying the family of Father Gerard's first host. The words of the narrative may be purposely ambiguous, in order that the mention of Justice Yelverton might not betray the family; but it may well be taken as we have now rendered it. There was a reason why Jane Lumner, the widow, should be called the sister of Sir Christopher, which does not apply to Edward Yelverton or to Grisel Lady Woodhouse, for Jane and Christopher were children of William Yelverton by the first marriage, and Edward and Grisel of the second. One Generation, p. 151. The original phrase, et postea maritus sororis, shows us that the brother-in-law was not converted within the eight months. No doubt he was Sir Philip Woodhouse, who is described afterwards as vir magnus et potens.

3 The name Yelverton is added in the margin. Sir Christopher Yelverton was at this time Queen's Serjeant, and subsequently Speaker of the House of Commons and Puisne Judge of the King's Bench. He died in 1607, though Gerard, writing at Louvain in 1609, did not know it. His son, Sir Henry Yelverton, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, condemned Father Edmund Arrowsmith in 1628, and died a few months after. Father Arrowsmith was Father John Gerard's first cousin once removed, the martyr's father, Robert Arrowsmith, having married Margery Gerard, the daughter of Nicholas, John Gerard's uncle.

4 Dr. Andrew Perne, Master of Peter-house, Cambridge, and second Dean of Ely.

5 Anthony Tyrrel in September, 1586, names "Redman, alias Redshawe, an aged man, made priest in Queen Mary's time," and "Moore, an old man, priest in King Henry's time," as serving the Catholics in Norfolk. P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cxciii. n. 13.

The Act of the 27th of Elizabeth, under which most of the martyrs were put to death after the year 1584, in which it was passed, applied to those who were ordained after the feast of St. John the Baptist in the first year of the Queen's reign, and thus the Marian priests were exempted from its operation. But they fell under the other penal laws, which were severe enough. It was high treason by the 1st Elizabeth to maintain the power or jurisdiction of any foreign prelate or potentate within these realms, on a third conviction. By the 5th Elizabeth the first conviction brought the penalty of premunire, and to refuse the oath of supremacy after such a conviction, or on a second tender of the oath was high treason. By the 13th Elizabeth, suing for or using Bulls from the Bishop of Rome was high treason. By the 23rd Elizabeth withdrawing any from the religion established was high treason, and saying Mass was punished with a fine of 200 marks and imprisonment. James Bell, who suffered at Lancaster, April 20, 1584, was the only one of the priests of Queen Mary's time who was condemned to death in virtue of these statutes, but their names are sometimes found in the prison lists with other priests. Owing to the kindness of Canon Toole we are able to give the following interesting extract from the register of deaths of Manchester Cathedral, formerly the Collegiate Church. " 1581, August 7. Richard Smith, an old pryst. Died in prison in the Fleete for religion."

7 It is clear that Father Gerard knew, when he wrote this, that Sir Philip Woodhouse had relapsed ; but he did not know that Lady Woodhouse also, "on account of the madness of her husband, which very frequently broke out against her, had lately fallen from the Church." So her nephew Charles Yelverton stated when admitted into the English College at Rome in 1601. One Generation of a Norfolk House, p. 209. Records of the English Province, vol. i. p. 142.

8 All that is known about the Walpoles, and among them about Edward and his cousin Michael, will be found, admirably told by Dr. Jessopp, in his One Generation of a Norfolk House.

9 Decacordon, p. 89. This passage, with the exception of the last sentence, is quoted in The Anatomie of Popish Tyrannie, by Thomas Bell, the apostate priest, which was published in London in 1603 with a dedication to Tobie [Matthew, then] Bishop of Durham. This is not the only instance in which Bell quotes Watson imperfectly.

10 A Modest Defence of the Clergy and Religious, 1714, p. 11.

11 P.R.O., Domestic, Elizabeth, vol. cci. n. 53.