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 IX.
The following is a copy of a letter written by Father Parsons to His Holiness, Pope Gregory XIII., by the hand of George Gilbert, whose final destination was to be the Eternal City.
"Beatissime Pater,—Although I hope your Holiness knows our affairs by other letters I have sent you, yet, as I have found a convenient messenger, to whom I must needs give some kind of letter, I wished to add some brief notice of our state. To-day the French Ambassadors have left London without having done their business, as is generally supposed, for the marriage is no longer talked about. We are daily expecting a fresh storm of persecution; for, two days ago, the Council sent an order to all parts of the realm, to make search for the Catholic recusants, as they call them, according to the form of a statute made in the last Session, which condemns every one above the age of sixteen to pay twenty pounds for every month they refuse to come to the Protestant church. And although there are very few Catholics who are rich enough to pay, and the rest must therefore expect to lie perpetually imprisoned, yet they are full of joy, and not at all anxious about this matter, as they hope that their case will be the same as that of the Israelites, and that the aggravation of their oppression will be the hope of a more speedy redemption.
"Against us they publish the most threatening proclamations, books, sermons, ballads, libels, lies, and plays. But the people receive us with the greatest eagerness, comfort us, and protect us. The number of the Faithful is wonderfully increased, and of our shrewdest foes we have softened many; some we have converted. The contest is sharp. God give us humility, patience, and fortitude! Whatever Priest or layman they lay hold of, whom they suspect to know anything about us, they torture on the rack to make him betray us; and quite lately they tormented one most atrociously, but could get nothing out of him. 1 Meanwhile, we live safely enough in their very sight We talk, preach, write, and do everything else to resist them, expecting every kind of torment when we are taken; yet in the meantime, through God's goodness, we sleep soundly. We earnestly desire supplies of new men, and that soon, for fear we should be taken before they can take our places. So much concerning religious affairs.
"It now remains for me to tell your Holiness somewhat about the bearer of this letter, who, to tell the truth, is the chief cause of my writing. He is a young gentleman named George Gilbert, who has afforded the rarest spectacle to all England. He was a man of great wealth, a great favourite at Court, and devoted all his property to the defence of the Catholic religion. When we first entered the island, whilst others were in fear and doubt, he alone took us in, comforted us, clothed us, fed us, helped us with money, horses, servants, then took us about the island at his own expence; he journeyed with us, gave us books, and other necessaries, bought a press for us, sold some of his lands, and gave us a large sum of money for all purposes whereby the Catholic religion might be promoted; nor was this all, he bestowed continual alms on all the prisoners for religion, whereby he soon became so hateful to the heretics (especially as he had once been one of them), that they searched for him everywhere, and threatened to put him to a cruel death, if they could catch him. Now, although he cared little for this, yet since I saw that he could work no longer, nor stay in England, without plain peril of his life, and that we had more trouble and anxiety in protecting him than ourselves, I at last persuaded him to leave all things and cross over the sea, to keep himself for happier times. Now, therefore, I most humbly entreat your Holiness, or rather, all we Priests entreat you, because this one man was a most munificent patron to us all, that your Holiness will regard him, and console him for that consolation which he has given us, and whereby he has upheld the common cause.
For if we have done any good, a great part of it is to be attributed to this youth. So, if he finds an equal charity on that side, it will be a great edification for all, and no little encouragement to his companions to imitate his example.
"May the most merciful Jesus preserve your Holiness long, as all the Catholics here pray day and night, who think themselves so bound by the immense kindness you have shown, that they never cease talking of your Holiness, and to pray for your long life in this world, and your salvation and eternal happiness in the next.
"Your Holiness' most unworthy son,
"Robert Parsons, S.J.
"London, 24th June, 1581."
1 This would have been, probably, a servant of Mr. Brinkley, lately mentioned, who was caught and racked, but nothing could be extracted from him (Simpson's Campion, p. 185).