Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Life Of Fr John Gerard S.J. (A Hunted Priest) Part 11.

its very name indicates that it was an old English country place—is a house that still stands in the fields two miles from Wimbish Church in Essex. A century ago 1 there were some remains of the moat that surrounded it in the days when Father Gerard made it the head quarters of his missionary life. He continues his autobiography thus.

"When the house had been thus settled, I found time both for study and for missionary excursions. I took care that all in the house should approach the Sacraments frequently, which none before, save the good widow, used to do oftener than four times a year. Now they came every week. On feast days, and often on Sundays, I preached in the chapel; moreover I showed those who had leisure the way to meditate by themselves, and taught all how to examine their conscience. I also brought in the custom of reading pious books, which we did even at meals, when there were no strangers there; for at that time we priests sat with the rest, even with our gowns on. I had a cassock besides and a biretta, but the Superior would not have us use these except in the chapel.

"In my excursions I almost always gained some to God. There is however a great difference to be observed between these counties where I then was, and other parts common people are Catholics, and almost all lean towards the Catholic faith, it is easy to bring many into the bosom of the Church, and to have many hearers together at a sermon. I myself have seen in Lancashire two hundred together present at mass and sermon ; and as these easily come in, so also they easily scatter when the storm of persecution draws near, and come back again when the alarm has blown over. On the contrary, in those parts where I was now staying there were very few Catholics, but these were of the higher classes; scarcely any of the common people, for they cannot live in peace, surrounded as they are by most violent heretics. The way of managing in such places, is first to gain the gentry, then the servants : for Catholic masters cannot do without Catholic servants.

" About this time I gained to God and the Church my hostess 1 brother, the only son of a certain knight. I ever after found him a most faithful friend in all circumstances. He afterwards took to wife a cousin of the most illustrious Spanish Duke of Feria. This pious pair are so attached to our priests, that now in these terrible times they always keep one in their house, and often two or three."

His "hostess brother" was Henry, son of Sir Edmund Huddlestone 2 of Sawston in Cambridgeshire, who married Dorothy, daughter of Robert, first Lord Dormer, by his wife Elizabeth Browne, daughter of Anthony, first Viscount Montague. The " cousinship" with the Duke of Feria is by affinity and half-blood. Jane, daughter of Sir William Dormer, by his first wife Mary Sidney, married Don Gomez Suarez, Count of Feria; and Dorothy's father,-Robert Lord Dormer, was a son of Sir William by his second wife, Dorothy Catesby. 3
Henry Huddleston (c.1574-1657)

Henry Huddlestone was one of those who suffered by the Gunpowder Plot. He was arrested in Warwickshire, 4 and examined November 8, 1605, when he is called Henry Hurlestone 5 of Paswick, Essex. Mrs. Vaux wrote to Sir Richard Varney, Sheriff of Warwickshire, that Mrs. Huddlestone, who was with her, begged that her husband might go up to London with the Lord Lieutenant.6 Winter in his evidence exculpated him. 7 He was in the Marshalsea, where his wife asked access to him. In another examination, December 6, 1605, he says that he met Father Gerard, alias Brooke, at Mrs. Vaux's house 9 He took the news to Harrowden where Father Gerard was.10 On the 5th of February, 1607, the King wrote to Salisbury concerning the grant to Sir John Leigh of the forfeiture of Huddlestone in Essex, a recusant. 11

Father Gerard's next paragraph refers to the Rook-woods of Coldham in Suffolk. The "heir to a goodly estate, who was put to death on a charge of treason," was Ambrose Rookwood.who was executed for the Gunpowder Plot. " The devotion and resolute mind of this gentleman was very well known to many," Father Gerard says of him in his "Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot," 12 "and he was very much pitied, as he had been much beloved." The secular priest his brother was living in 1624, and is called by Gee "Townsend alias Ruckwood." Watson in the " Decachordon" mentions "Dorothy Ruckwood, Mr. Richard Ruckwood's daughter of Suffolk, who had a great portion given unto her by the Lady Elizabeth Drury her grandmother." Dorothy Rookwood was, it would seem, about two years in Belgium before she entered Religion, for she was professed at the Flemish Augustinian Convent of St. Ursula at Louvain, with Bridget Wiseman and Margaret Garnet, Father Henry Garnet's sister, on the 5th of June, 1595. She died " about the time the Dutch Mother was elected" in 1607, "very sweetly as she had lived, for she was a mild virtuous soul, sweet and affable in her conversation, and beloved of all her sisters." She did not therefore live long enough to be one of those sent out to found the English Convent of St. Monica's in 1609.

"It was in this same year [probably Father Gerard is speaking of 1592, the year in which St. Omers College was founded] that I sent into Belgium the daughter and three sons of a Catholic gentleman. The sister became a nun in the Order of St. Austin at Louvain, where she gave such edification both in life and death that she was the talk of all: nay, they still speak of her with wonder, and stick not to call her a saint. In fact how great her esteem and love was of religious life may be known from this, that she was ever most thankful for that little help in her vocation which she got from me. She had praised me so much beyond my due in that convent, that when I came to Louvain, numbers flocked to me. Nay, one of the Belgian Sisters, who had been especially dear to her while she was alive, had learnt the English language on purpose to make her confession to me, and others were trying to do the same. That this happened by the providence of God, I gather from the fact that it proved the salvation of some who otherwise would not have placed such trust in me. Her three brothers were among the first students of the Seminary of St. Omers. One, after finishing his studies well, died holily in Spain ; the second, who was heir to a goodly estate, was put to death by the heretics on a charge of treason f the third is still living and toiling in England, a learned and good priest, and a friend of our Fathers.

"Of my host's two sisters I have spoken before; but these I did not send till afterwards. I had previously persuaded their mother, the good widow [Jane Wiseman], to go to her own house and maintain there a priest whom I recommended, in order that so noble a soul and one so ready for all good deeds, might be a profit not only to herself but to many, as in fact she became. Her house was a retreat and no small protection both to ours and to other priests. She used moreover so to abound with joy when I or others came to her house, that sometimes she could not refrain from clapping her hands or some like sign of gladness; she was indeed ' a true widow,' given to all manner of good works, and especially occupied with zeal for souls.
Lady Penelope Devereux

"Indeed, besides others of less standing whom she brought me to be reconciled, she had nearly won over a certain great lady, a neighbour of hers. Though this lady was the wife of the richest 13 [Lady Penelope Devereux] lord in the whole county, and sister to the Earl of Essex (then most powerful with the Queen), and was wholly given to vanities, nevertheless she brought her so far as to be quite willing to speak with a priest, if only he could come to her without being known. This the good widow told me. I consequently went to her house openly, and addressed her as though I had something to tell her from a certain great lady her kinswoman, for so it had been agreed. I dined openly with her and all the gentry in the house, and spent three hours at least in private talk with her. I first satisfied her in all the doubts which she laid before me about faith; next I set myself to stir up her will, and before my departure I so wrought upon her, that she asked for instructions how to prepare herself for confession, and fixed a day for making it. Nay, she afterwards wrote to me earnestly protesting that she desired nothing in the world so much as to open to me the inmost recesses of her heart. But the judgments of God are a deep abyss, and it is a dreadful thing to expose oneself to the occasions of sin. Now there was a baron 14 in London who had loved her long and deeply ; to him she disclosed her purpose by letter, perchance to bid him farewell; but she roused a sleeping adder. For he hastened to her, and began to dissuade her in every kind of way; and being himself a heretic and not wanting in learning, he cunningly coaxed her to get him an answer to certain doubts of his from the same guide that she herself followed; saying that if he was satisfied in this, he too would become a Catholic. He implored her to take no step in the meantime, if she did not wish for his death. So he filled two sheets of paper about the Pope, the worship of saints, and the like. She sent them with a letter of her own, begging me to be so good as to answer them, for it would be a great gain if such a soul could be won over. He did not however write from a wish to learn, but rather with the treacherous design of delaying her conversion. For he got an answer, a full one I think, to which he made no reply. But meanwhile he endeavoured to get her to London, and succeeded in making her first postpone, and afterwards altogether neglect her resolution. By all this however he was unwittingly bringing on his own ruin : for later on, returning from Ireland laden with glory, on account of his successful administration, and his victory over the Spanish forces that had landed there (on which occasion he brought over the Earl of Tyrone, who had been the most powerful opponent of heresy in that country, and most sturdy champion of the ancient faith), he was created earl by his present Majesty ; and though conqueror of others, he conquered not himself, but was kept a helpless captive by his love of this lady. This madness of his brought him to commit such extravagancies that he became quite notorious, and was publicly disgraced. Unable to endure this dishonour, and yet unwilling to renounce the cause of it, he died of grief, invoking, alas, not God, but this goddess, 'his angel/ as he called her, and leaving her heiress of all his property. Such was his miserable end, dying in bad repute of all men. The lady, though now very rich, often afterwards began to think of her former resolution, and often spoke of me to a certain Catholic maid of honour that she had about her. This latter coming into Belgium about three years back to become a nun, related this to me, and begged me to write to her and fan the yet unquenched spark into a flame. But when I was setting about the letter, I heard that she had been carried off by a fever, not however before she had been reconciled to the Church by one of ours. I have set this forth at some length, that the providence of God with regard to her whose conversion was hindered, and His judgment upon him who was the cause of the hindrance, may more clearly appear."

" It [Braddocks] seems to have been formerly moated round, and two sides of the moat remain at present." Morant, History of Essex,] London, 1768, vol. ii. p. 559.

2 "While the house at Sawston was erecting, Sir Edmund resided on his estates in Essex, and served the office of Sheriff for that county in 20, 21 [1578-9] and 30 Elizabeth" [1588]. Burke's Landed Gentry, 1850, vol. 1. p. 602.

3 Burke's Peerage.

4 P.R.O., Gunpowder Plot Book, n. 75.

Ibid. Domestic, James I., vol. xvi. n. 31.

6 Ibid. n. 227.

7 Ibid. n. 146.

Ibid. vol. xvii. n. 14.

9 Ibid. vol. xix. n. 43.

10 Ibid. n. 13.

11 Ibid. vol. xxvi. n. 44.

12 Condition of Catholics, p. 221.

13 Lady Penelope Devereux, daughter of Walter first Earl of Essex, wife of Robert third Lord Rich, afterwards Earl of Warwick.

14 Charles Blount, eighth Baron Mountjoy, who in 1603 was created Earl of Devonshire. He was married December 26, 1605, to Lady Rich, after her divorce and in the lifetime of her husband. The Earl of Devonshire died in a few months after this marriage, April 3, 1606.