Jesuits In Conflict: Or Historic Facts Illustrative of the labours of the English Mission and Province Of The Society Of Jesus. In the times of Queen Elizabeth and her successors. By a member Of The Society Of Jesus.
GEORGE GILBERT, S.J. PART II.
Father Thomas Darbyshire was at that time living in Paris, whose fame for virtue and learning was well known to Mr. Gilbert in England. His history forms the third part of this volume.
Mr. Gilbert began to treat with Father Darbyshire, at first upon terms of civility as a fellow-countryman, then on more intimate terms, and at last seriously upon religious subjects, which until then he had never done on account of the monstrous and impious doctrine of "Assurance of Salvation" professed by his sect of the Puritans. Being either moved with the eternal reasons propounded by Father Darbyshire, or else by the sanctity of life he noticed in him, doubts arose in his mind as to his real state, sufficiently strong to induce him at once to banish from his heart and mind all the follies of Calvin, and, at the same time, all love and desire of Court custom and deeds of arms. Travelling from Paris to Rome, he gave himself up to Father Parsons, who was at that time confessor or penitentiary in St. Peter's Church, for instruction in the Catholic religion. This ended in his speedy conversion and reconciliation to the Church; this was in 1579. Father Parsons stood his godfather at his confirmation. From that time, though the new convert still pursued his studies, and learned the accomplishments for which Italy was then famous—riding, fencing, vaulting, and the like, for he was of stalwart growth 1 —yet lie secretly added all kinds of religious exercises, such as prayer, fasting, mortification, and liberal almsgiving. He wished to expend his first fervour in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem ; but Father Parsons persuaded him rather to return to England, and lay out his money in assisting Priests, and on other means of advancing the Catholic cause.
Strengthened with admirable precepts, he returned to England altogether a different man than the gay George Gilbert who had left it a few years before. He was then in the flower of his youth; an only child and an orphan, with a rich inheritance in Suffolk and other counties at his free disposal, which he liberally expended in relieving the needs of the Catholic poor. He contracted an intimate friendship with Thomas Pounde, Esq., of Belmont, who had been long buried in prison for the cause of the Faith. In his frequent visits to him in the gaol he sometimes remarked that many of the incarcerated Catholics suffered much in the winter from cold and bad clothing; these he would immediately, at his own expense, furnish with new and respectable clothes. Mr. Pounde recommended to his charity a large community of Nuns, who had been expelled from their convent in England, and had taken refuge in Flanders, and on that account were reduced to such poverty that amongst the great number there were only two Breviaries wherewith to say Divine Office; and, indeed, one of these was only a manuscript copy, and so old, torn, and worn out by constant use as to be almost unserviceable. The holy virgins did not ask relief in their other necessities, but in this only, in order to enable them to sing the praises of God, and for the consolation of their hearts. The reprinting would cost them three hundred scudi. George Gilbert sent them six hundred, asking only in return the favour of their making him a present of the old torn manuscript copy; and this because it had been used for many years by one of these Religious, who was then very aged, and held in great repute for sanctity.
One result of his return to England was that he drew together and organized divers principal young men, forming them into a club or association for promoting the cause of the Catholic religion ; binding themselves to perform the two functions of preparing Protestants and conducting the Priests, and, besides, to procure alms for the common fund, out of which the Priests were supplied. Their promise entailed upon them great sacrifices; they determined to " imitate the lives of the Apostles, and devote themselves wholly to the salvation of souls and conversion of heretics." They promised to "content themselves with food and clothing, and the bare necessaries of their state, and to bestow all the rest for the good of the Catholic cause." The Association was solemnly blessed by Pope Gregory XIII., 14th April, 1580. They soon became known as " subseminaries," " conductors, companions, and comforters of Priests;" " lay-brothers," out of whom the Jesuits were accused of getting " either all or most part of their riches" before turning them into officers and solicitors; "inferior agents," "lay-assistants to straggle abroad and bring in the game," whose business it [was not to argue, but to pry in corners to get men to entertain conference with the Priest, or inveigle youths to fly over sea to the Seminaries."2
1 At the end of this Life will be found a quaint description of Mr. Gilbert (Dom. Eliz., State Papers, P. R. O., Vol. cxl., No. 62).
2 Simpson's Campion , p. 157, quoting Gee, the apostate, Foot out of the Snare, &c.