Elizabethan Catholics and the Mass
The Angelus - October 1982

Elizabethan Catholics and the Mass
I. The Gathering Storm
by Philip Caramon, S.J.

The article which follows (and two subsequent which will follow) originally appeared in 1974. The manuscript was written and put to one side before the changes which came to the Church in the wake of the Council. It is important to note this, for those who read these moving articles will be struck by certain parallels with our own day, which are the more powerful for not having been intended; they should cause us all to pause and think. As an historian of the Elizabethan period, Father Caramon, of course, needs no introduction.  It is a privilege to publish his work. Acknowledgments to Christian Order.

Queen Mary died on 17 November 1558 while Mass was being celebrated in her bed-chamber. No day had passed in her adult life without her hearing Mass. When the priest came to the words, Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, she answered distinctly Miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem; then, as he took the Host to consume it, the Queen adored it. Afterwards she closed her eyes for the last time.

Elizabeth proclaimed Queen

Between eleven and twelve o'clock the same morning Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth, was proclaimed Queen by the heralds of arms. In the afternoon the bells of all London churches were rung for joy; that night bonfires were lit and tables set out in the streets; there was plentiful eating, drinking and merry-making. The next day, Friday, being a fast day, there were no public rejoicings, but on Saturday, 19 November, the Te Deum Laudamus was sung in all the churches of the kingdom.

During her last sickness Queen Mary had sent messengers to Princess Elizabeth to examine her on her religious beliefs, for no one was certain exactly where she stood. "Surely the Queen must be persuaded that I am a Catholic, for I have protested this time and again," Elizabeth assured her. Then she swore and vowed that she was a Catholic. She said she believed in the Real Presence and would make no alteration in the principal points of religion.

Today people are free to profess whatever religion they choose; then it was different. Until Henry VIII, the father of Mary and Elizabeth, came to the throne, the only religion of Europe was the Catholic one. It was thought that anyone who did not believe in it was wilfully wrong. If he persisted or tried to propagate his beliefs, he was imprisoned as a heretic and sometimes burnt at the stake. Queen Mary had done this; earlier still the English soldiers in France had burnt Joan of Arc; she was thought to be directed by the devil, though, in fact, she was a saint. It was accepted by all that the State was bound to save the souls of its citizens from contamination by false doctrine, just as much as it was bound to protect their lives and property from murderers and highwaymen.

No one thought it possible for different religions to exist side by side in the same country. So it happened that, when Martin Luther and others started the Protestant religion and converted to it German, Swiss and other rulers, the entire area governed by them became Protestant. If any individual felt in conscience that he could not fall in with the new religion of his country, he left his home and went to another city, which adhered to his own religion.

On Mary's death the question that concerned everybody was whether the new Queen, Elizabeth, (and with her the whole of England) would remain Catholic or turn Protestant. Elizabeth was astute and did not show her hand at once. The truth is that she did not care very much about religion, but wanted to be secure on her throne, and thought she had more chance of this if eventually she declared herself a Protestant.

It so happened that, within twenty-two hours of Queen Mary's death, there died also the Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Reginald Pole. And nearly at the same time, there died no less than thirteen Bishops and a great number of the clergy from Quartan fever, which was then raging like the plague. Thus, by chance, a great barrier to a change in religion was removed.

The first weeks of the new reign passed and the people were still puzzled. Elizabeth delayed at Hatfield in Hertfordshire before taking possession of London. In preparation for her entry all the streets of the city were spread with gravel. Then, finally, she came, riding a horse apparelled in purple velvet. She passed through Cripplegate and along London Wall to Bishopsgate, then up Leadenhall and Fenchurch Street, turning down Mark Lane into Tower Street and so to the Tower. There was great shooting of guns, such as had never been heard before. At certain points along the route children made speeches to her; in other places groups sang songs to the accompaniment of portable organs. However, the uncertainty about her religion continued.

[Image: ?u=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn0.vox-cdn.com%2Fthum....0.jpg&f=1]

First Signs of Protestantism

On 9 January 1559, just seven weeks after Mary's death, a statue of St. Thomas of Canterbury, patron of England, which had stood for centuries over the door of the chapel attached to the Mercers' Hall in London, was thrown down and broken. The offense went unpunished and some persons took this as an omen for the future.

The coronation was fixed for Sunday, 15 February 1559, in Westminster Abbey, which was decorated for the event with the most precious tapestries ever seen, representing on one side the whole of Genesis and, on the other, the Acts of the Apostles, from designs by Raphael. The rooms off the Church were hung with the history of Caesar and Pompey. On a table at the buffet were laid out a hundred and forty gold and silver drinking cups.

After making her entry into the Church the Queen ascended a lofty tribune erected between the high altar and the choir, in view of all the people, who were asked if they wished her to be crowned. When they shouted, "yes," the organs, fifes, trumpets, and drums played, and it seemed, as an eye-witness reported, that the world had come to an end.

Then the choristers began the Mass which was sung by the Dean of her chapel.

As senior prelate in England, Nicholas Heath, Archbishop of York, had been asked to crown the Queen. He had refused, for he suspected there would be innovations in the service. All the other bishops had refused also, except the Bishop of Carlisle, not because he favored the Protestant religion but for fear that, if the Queen was angered that no one would anoint her, she might be more easily moved to overthrow the Catholic faith. The rest of the bishops were present at the ceremony until the point of the Mass when the host is elevated, for adoration. This was not done, for the Queen had forbidden it.

Other changes ordered in the days following the coronation confirmed that Archbishop Heath had been right. On 25 January Elizabeth was once more at the Abbey, with all the peers of the realm, for the Mass of the Holy Ghost, before the opening of Parliament. The Benedictine Abbot John Feckenham, and all his community, each of them carrying a lighted candle in his hand, met her in procession at the West Door. When the Queen saw them, she said angrily, "Away with those torches, for we can see very well." During the service, Dr. Richard Cox, a married priest, who had been an exile during Mary's reign, preached a sermon in which, after saying many abusive things about the monks, he exhorted the Queen to destroy all the images of the saints, the monasteries and all that went with Catholic worship. He tried to prove that it was a very great impiety to endure such superstitious survivals.

Nevertheless for a time the administration of the sacraments continued in all the churches, though the litanies of the saints were no longer recited and parts of the Mass were said in English. Plays were performed in derision of the Catholic faith, but no one was persecuted: placards were posted at street corners inviting passers-by into taverns to watch them. Churches were broken into, windows shattered and chalices stolen. In March the same year rogues raided St. Mary-le-Bow's, in the middle of Cheapside, burst open the tabernacle and smashed every sacred object on which they could lay their hands.

About the same time the last public Catholic funeral was seen in London. On 12 April the corpse of Sir Rice Mansfield was brought from Clerkenwell for burial from Blackfriars Church; two heralds went behind the coffin and twenty-four priests and clerks before it, singing the Office of the Dead. The church of the friars was draped with black cloth and coats of arms. The next day the Requiem was sung and, after it, the knight's standard, coat, helmet and target were offered up at the high altar as had been done for centuries past. For it was the customary manner of a knight's funeral. London was never to see this ceremony again.

Plea from an Archbishop

Meanwhile, Nicholas Heath, the Archbishop of York (he had opposed the burning of heretics under Queen Mary and was considered the most prudent man in the kingdom), had an audience with the Queen. As soon as he was alone with her, he fell on his knees and invoked with tears the name of Jesus Christ. He begged Elizabeth, being a woman, to refrain from tampering with the sacred mysteries. He said that he had been through the English schools and universities and had attained the highest honors; he had been a bishop under her father Henry VIII, and her brother, Edward VI and Lord Chancellor under Mary, and that from his experience in the course of a long life, to say nothing of his own studies, he had learned that the State suffered great harm from frequent changes, even in the laws relating to the administration of justice. How much greater harm, he argued, would result from alterations in religion, where antiquity was held at such great account.

It was a wise and moderate speech. The Archbishop, recalling all that had recently happened, said that it was now proposed to make changes, not simply in ceremonies, but in the highest mysteries of the Faith, which (as the name implied) should be reverenced in silence rather than made the subject of popular debate. To call in question the sacraments of the Church, after such a length of time and in a kingdom which had only recently recovered from schism, would be disastrous in the extreme.

Finally, asking the Queen's pardon for his freedom of speech, the Archbishop concluded;
Quote:"But if (which God avert) the Catholic religion should unhappily be overthrown in England, I warn, I proclaim and I declare beforehand that I will not recede a nail's breadth in the least thing from the decrees of the Catholic Church, and in that quarrel I will resist every suggestion from others, and even from your Majesty, by every means in my power, to the last moment of my life."

The Queen bade him rise, comforted him with many words and ended by promising the Archbishop that she would do nothing that was not approved by her Councillors and by the whole nation assembled in Parliament. She gave him to think that in some measure she still wished to profess the Catholic Faith.

On 23 April, St. George's Day, the patronal feast of the Knights of the Garter, the Queen attended the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. During the procession not a single cross was carried. The following day Mass was sung as usual for the souls of the deceased knights, but the Queen, who was to have been present, altered her mind, and the Mass was said without the elevation of the Host.

Returned Exiles Strike

On 25 April, the feast of St. Mark and the last of the three rogation days, there were processions in the London parishes, and the citizens went with their banners through the streets, singing the litanies in Latin in the old fashion. On Ascension Day, while the parish procession of St. Paul's was going round the Cathedral precincts, a servant-lad, an apprentice to a Protestant printer, violently snatched the cross out of the hands of the bearer, struck it on the ground three times, breaking it into many small pieces. Then he took the figure from the cross and went off, saying as he showed it to some women, that he was carrying away the Devil's guts. In another London parish, on the same day, when the procession was about to come out of the church, two scoundrels with drawn swords in their hands placed themselves at the gate, swearing that ecclesiastics should not carry such an abomination, and that, if they left the church, they should never re-enter it.

This was the work of the men who had been in exile in Germany and Switzerland under Queen Mary. Now, one of their number, Richard Cox, boasted in a letter to a friend at Zurich:
"We are thundering forth in our pulpits, and especially before our Queen, Elizabeth, that the Roman Pontiff is truly antichrist and that traditions are for the most part blasphemies";
but he went on to admit that none of the clergy had changed their beliefs. "The whole body," he said, "remains unmoved"; that is, loyal to the Old Faith.

Parliament and the Mass

Meanwhile, in Parliament, a Bill laying down a new service of common prayer to replace the old Mass was debated. When it was read in the Lords for the third time all the Bishops, as before, dissented; and among the chief peers, they were supported by the Marquis of Winchester, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Viscount Montagu, and Barons Morley, Stafford, Dudley, Wharton, Rich and North.

True to his undertaking, Archbishop Heath spoke out firmly:
Quote:"The unity of the Church of Christ doth depend upon the unity of Peter's authority. Therefore, by our leaping out of Peter's ship, we must needs be overwhelmed with the waters of schism, sects and divisions which spring only from this, that men will not be obedient to the Head Bishop of God."

The Archbishop asked the Lords whether they thought the Church of Rome was not of God, but a malignant Church, and then went on:
Quote:"If you answer yes, then it will follow that we, the inhabitants of this realm, have not as yet received any benefit from Christ, for we have received no other gospel, no other doctrine, no other Faith, no other sacraments than were sent us from the Church of Rome."

Cuthbert Scot, Bishop of Chester, spoke twice. He pointed out that as God had sent one Holy Ghost to rule and govern His people inwardly, so he had appointed one governor to rule and lead them outwardly. And he asserted that no temporal prince had any authority whatsoever in or over the Church, since the keys of the heavenly kingdom had never been given to any of them, but only to Peter. Abbot Feckenham of Westminster, who also sat in the House of Lords, compared Queen Mary's days to the present. Then no churches were spoiled, he said, no altars pulled down, nor was the sacrament ever trodden blasphemously under foot and the knave of clubs hung in its place; there was no defiant eating of meat in Lent and on prohibited days. Now all things were changed and turned upside down.

But these protests were of no avail. Things got worse. At the end of May the Queen's Councillors, who were the men responsible for the alterations in religion, summoned to their presence Edmund Bonner, the Bishop of London, and gave him orders to do away with the Mass and Divine Office at St. Paul's. The Bishop answered intrepidly:
Quote:"I possess three things: soul, body, and property: of the two last you can dispose at your pleasure, but as to the soul God alone can command me."

Last Public Masses in London

A few days later, on 11 June, St. Barnabas' day, the last Mass was said at St. Paul's. By the end of the month there were no public Masses anywhere in London, except in the houses of the French and Spanish ambassadors. All the friars and monks of every order received their passports to go abroad; the Franciscan friars from Greenwich, the Blackfriars from Smithfield, the monks and nuns from Sion and Westminster. The Carthusians refused to leave until they were compelled by force, which was soon used. Under the Queen's father, Henry VIII, they had resisted the King's attempt to claim headship of the Church, and had suffered death for it, some at Tyburn by hanging, others in Newgate by starvation. John Houghton, their prior, had been the first martyr of the Reformation. His community, re-established under Mary, was proud of its fidelity to the Church, and rather than give up their religion went into exile.

New Bill of Supremacy

Now a new Bill of Supremacy, making the Queen Head of the Church, was passed in Parliament; and in the same session also a Bill of Uniformity that permitted only one form of worship, namely, the new form. Commissioners were sent out from London to visit the universities, the cathedral churches and the city parishes throughout England with the task of enforcing these measures. This was in the summer of 1559, less than a year after Elizabeth had given a solemn undertaking to her half-sister, Mary, that she would make no change in religion. There was great opposition in court to the new services and also among the clergy and people, and had it not been for the persistence of Sir William Cecil, the Queen's Chief Councillor, the reformation, as it was called, would certainly have failed.

The Queen's commissioners first visited the London churches. On their orders the rood screens and altars were pulled down. The Lord Major, returning on St. Bartholomew's Day from the fair at Clerkenwell, where he had been watching sports and wrestling, saw in Cheapside two great bonfires made of statues, missals, crosses, copes, censers, altar-cloths, banners and other ornaments from Catholic times. The same was to be seen in other parts of London.

To show greater contempt for Our Blessed Lady, the official birthday of the Queen was now kept on 7 September, the eve of the nativity of Our Blessed Lady, which was marked in the calendar in small black letters, while that of Elizabeth was in large red capitals. In St. Paul's and elsewhere the praises of Elizabeth were now sung at the end of the public prayers in the place where the antiphon of Our Lady had been sung in former days.

Catholic Bishops Removed

One by one the Catholic bishops were removed from their sees. In a last brave attempt to change the Queen's mind Bishop Tunstall of Durham, who had been excused from attending Parliament because of his great age, came riding on horseback to London to see the Queen. In spite of her prohibition he preached to the people on his way. Everywhere he exhorted them to remain constant in the Catholic Faith. When the old man was brought into the presence of the Queen, he reprimanded her severely, because she had taken on herself to meddle in religion and had removed all the bishops, whose equals, he said, were hardly to be found in the Christian world.

"I confess," the Queen said, "that I grieve for York and Ely."

"But," replied Tunstall, "how can you grieve, when you have the remedy in your hands?"

The Councillors sat with the Queen. They urged Tunstall to change his religion. 
Quote:"Do you think that I, who as a priest and a bishop have taught the Catholic Faith for more than forty years, would be doing right, after so many years of study, after such practice and experience, on the very verge of the grave, to accept a rule of faith from laymen, my juniors?"

The Councillors flushed. They then demanded that he should take the oath acknowledging the supremacy of the Queen over the Church.

The old man refused, and he was deprived of his bishopric and put in charge of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, a married man. After a few weeks of imprisonment Tunstall died at Lambeth.

The Old Priests Removed

Almost all the clergy were on the side of the Catholic hierarchy. For as long as they were permitted, they spoke from the pulpits against the new form of service; they protested that it was iniquitous to do away with the Mass, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, allegiance to the Pope and all that had been part of the English Church since the time of St. Augustine and before him. One by one, as the Commissioners went their circuits, these old priests were removed: most of them refused to be ministers of the new religion. Many continued to say Mass secretly, hear confessions, and baptize children, either in their own homes or in the houses of gentlemen.

The Country Folk Stay Loyal

For many years still the country people, particularly the shepherds and farmers, remained loyal to the old Faith. In large towns, like Norwich and Bristol, the artisans, weavers and shoemakers for the most part fell in with the new form of worship. But in the remoter parts of the kingdom, the population as a whole stayed Catholic. Hence the reformers, writing to German friends, continued for many years to talk always of their "little flock." One of them, John Jewel, now Bishop of Salisbury, complained:
Quote:"The papists (as Catholics were now called) oppose us spitefully. Thus it is to have once tasted of the Mass. He who drinks of it is mad."

For the first time in the history of England, indeed of any country, fines were imposed for non-attendance at church. This was the beginning of the persecution. In Winchester, which was strongly Catholic, the poor people who could not pay these fines were sentenced to be dragged through the streets, stripped of their clothes and cruelly whipped.

[Image: ?u=https%3A%2F%2Fupload.wikimedia.org%2F...29.png&f=1]

School & University

The old school there, founded by William of Wykeham, remained Catholic in sympathy. When the headmaster was imprisoned and a Protestant put in his place, the boys refused to attend public prayers and shut themselves in their dormitories. The headmaster was compelled to summon the military commander from Portsmouth, the nearest seaport, to restore order. About twelve boys took to flight; the rest, terrorized by the troops, went most unwillingly to church. As one chronicler wrote:
"In this persecution there is no order, or sex or age that has not nobly defended the Catholic Faith."

The universities, which formerly had been the training places of the clergy, did not take to the changes. Nearly all the heads of Colleges and the Fellows gave up their posts rather than subscribe to the oath of supremacy. By comparison with what it had been in the past, Oxford, particularly, was now somnolent. At New College, founded at the same time and by the same Catholic bishop as the school at Winchester, the old customs were slowly destroyed. On holidays after dinner the students no longer gathered around the fire in the hall to sing hymns. Many eminent university men crossed the sea to get a livelihood in foreign universities. Among them was Dr. William Allen, who was to become the chief adversary of the new religion.

First Arrest for Saying Mass

The first arrest of a priest for saying Mass contrary to the Queen's orders occurred in Fetter Lane, London. Treated as a traitor, the poor man was dragged violently through Holborn, Newgate Market, and Cheapside to the Counter Prison, with all his vestments on him, for he had been caught at the altar. A crowd followed him, mocking, cursing and wishing evil to him: some said he should be set in a pillory, others that he should be hanged, or hanged and quartered, or burned. All tried to pluck at him or give him a thump with their feet or spit in his face. Some shouted at him Ora pro nobis, sancta Maria, because it was the feast of Our Lady's Nativity (1562), though the day was not kept holy; they also sang mockingly Dominus vobiscum and such like phrases from the Mass.

Rosaries, Crucifixes, Statues—Out!

So things continued. Every year saw new measures of suppression. No person was permitted to carry beads or use them for prayers, to read the Book of Our Lady's Hours, or to burn candles on the Feast of the Purification. It was forbidden to pray before a crucifix or statue or picture of a saint, and it was thought superstitious to make the sign of the cross on entering a church, or to say the De profundis for the dead, or even to rest at a wayside cross while carrying a corpse to the grave: and to leave little crosses there. All altars were taken down in the churches. The places where they had stood were now paved, and the wall into which they had been set whited over. The altar stones were broken, defaced and turned to common uses.

But the people clung hard to the old customs. In some places, after the Rood had been taken away, they drew a cross in its place with chalk; and when the crosses in the graveyard were uprooted, they painted small crosses on the church walls inside and out, and on the pulpit and the new Communion tables. They still brought their primers to church and used them all the time the lessons were being read. In many churches the chalices were hidden away in readiness for the return of the Mass.

Finally, in 1570, the Pope, acting on his own counsels, issued a Bull, Regnans in Excelsis, declaring Elizabeth an heretic and excommunicate. Many Catholics at home judged this an unwise measure; for they feared it would enrage the Queen and lead her to retaliate with still severer legislation against them. However time proved the Pope correct. Now, for the first time, after eleven years of Elizabeth's reign, it was clear to all that none could practice the religion enforced by law and remain a Catholic. Henceforth if any man went to the state church he was no longer considered a Catholic; to receive communion there was a sign of submission to the new doctrines.

In reply the Queen imposed heavier fines for non-attendance at the services. Division now between Catholics and Protestants became sharper than ever before. Catholics, called Papists until this year, were now known as Recusants, for their refusal to take Communion from Protestant ministers.

In England only one man, Mr. Edward Aglionby, dared to raise his voice against the enforcement of conscience by legal penalties. In April 1571, in the House of Commons, Aglionby made a noble speech. He argued that it was not lawful for the State to compel any man's conscience, for the conscience of the individual did not concern the lawmakers: it did not fall even within the power of the greatest monarchy in the world. And he showed that neither the Jews nor Turks had ever required more than silence from their subjects, when they were unable to accept their people's religion. If the Catholics were wicked, as the law made them out to be, it was strange and against Christian practice to force them to take the new Communion; rather they should be forbidden it.

The Coming of the Sects

Meanwhile, as Archbishop Heath had warned the Queen, a large number of sects sprang up and spread throughout the kingdom. The largest of the many strange congregations was the Anabaptists, who called themselves Puritans, or Unspotted Lambs of God. Some of their adherents made mad assertions. In 1573 one Mr. Bloss was arrested for proclaiming that the Queen's late half-brother, King Edward VI, was still alive, that the Queen was married to the Earl of Leicester in 1564 and had four children by him.

The most curious of all these sects was "the family of the mount." It denied the existence of both heaven and hell, teaching that heaven existed wherever men laughed and made merry, and hell, wherever they were in sorrow, grief or pain.

The "family of essentials," a split or subdivision of the "family of love," believed that there was no such thing as sin. Their adherents used to ask, "Sin? What sin, man? There is no man sinneth at all." Their leader compared the altar to a cook's dresser-board. He had many meetings up and down the country.

To be continued
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
The Angelus - November 1982

Elizabethan Catholics and the Mass
II. Seminary Priests, Jesuits And Layfolk
by Philip Caraman, S.J.

Cardinal William Allen saved the Faith in Elizabethan England. In the teeth of the persecution mounted by Queen Elizabeth to destroy it, seminary priests, Jesuits and lay folk combined gallantly together, suffered and died gallantly together to hold what Allen had saved. Their example is an inspiration to those of us who fight now, as fight we must, to save the Faith of our Fathers, so grievously attacked from within. Acknowledgments to Christian Order.

It appeared now merely a matter of time before England, like other northern countries, became wholly Protestant. Those who had been small children at the end of Mary's reign were now reaching manhood. They could remember only the new services: and those younger still were brought up on the new catechism which maintained that there was no need for the sacrifice of the Mass since Christ's death on the Cross had done away with all need for further sacrifice. To the question, "Dost thou imagine the bread and wine to be turned into the flesh and blood of Christ?" the children were taught to answer that there was no such change.

The old priests, who held by the ancient teaching of the Church, had now all been deprived; many had died, those that survived lived in private houses or in prison; a few only went about the country saying Mass or hearing confessions in secret. Several were caught and imprisoned. In few parts except Lancashire did the Old Faith prove unassailable. Elsewhere there was now every hope that England would be wholly Protestant before the Queen was much older.

Thus by the middle seventies of the century Elizabeth was in sight of success. She had no liking for violence; in her childhood and youth she had been surrounded by bloodshed and abhorred it. It was her plan to induce the change in religion peacefully. After the removal and death of the old priests she calculated that the new ministers would receive recognition and the new religion would become firmly rooted in the land.

William Allen Saves the Faith

But there was one man she had left out of her reckoning, namely William Allen, a few years older than herself, from Rossall in Lancashire. He had won distinction in England, and had been principal of St. Mary's College, Oxford, then a canon of York Minster under Mary. Two years after Elizabeth came to the throne he left England with many of the leading men at Oxford, and was ordained priest abroad.

It was Allen's vision that saved the Old Faith in England. Before it was too late, he founded a seminary for the training of English priests at Douai, a small fortress town in the Netherlands, then under the rule of Philip II, King of Spain, formerly the consort of Queen Mary. There the King had established a new university with the purpose of combating heresy. While the English youths, gathered by Allen, lived in the seminary, built and governed on the model of an Oxford College, they were able to attend the lectures on doctrine at the University, and at the same time lead their own religious life.

Year by year more Englishmen came secretly across from Oxford to train for the priesthood at Douai. They were among the best men in England—brave, learned and self-sacrificing. The first of them were ordained priests in 1574; others followed. The year of the first ordinations only four priests were sent back secretly to England; in the following year six; then in the year following that eighteen.

At first the Queen's Councillors despised the puny beginnings of Douai. They thought, and said also, that those who might become priests abroad and re-enter England, would be compelled by want or tempted by gain to accept a benefice and minister in the Protestant churches according to the law and teaching of the State. If there chanced to be any obstinate men among them, they would be able to do nothing for, as they said, what could a few poor and homeless men do against the new Church, which was under the protection of so mighty a Queen and so effectually protected on every side. But the new priests were not cast in the old mould. Soon the Queen began to fear for the success of her policy, as across the Straits of Dover forces gathered for a fierce and relentless struggle to win back the souls of English Catholics to the Old Faith.

Cuthbert Mayne and the Seminary Priests

The first of the Douai priests to be captured and executed was Cuthbert Mayne. Returning to England in 1576, he had worked for twelve months in Cornwall before the sheriff of the county, Sir Richard Grenville, arrested him at the manor house of Golden near Truro, which belonged to a saintly Cornishman, Francis Tregian, who for his crime in sheltering Mayne was imprisoned for the rest of the reign: but his spirit was unbroken. In a poem referring to Mayne's captors, he wrote:

I humbly Thee beseech, O Lord,
Even by Thy blessed blood,
Forgive their guilt, forgive their ill,
And send them all much good:
Turn not, O Lord, Thy face from me,
Although a wretched wight,
And let me joy in Thee all day,
Rejoice in Thee at night.

Mayne's was a test case. There existed then no legal ground for his condemnation. But the Queen's Councillors ordered that he should be executed "for a terror to the Papists." He was offered his release if he would go to the Protestant Church. He refused. While he waited execution at Launceston Castle, his cell was flooded with a dazzling light. Two days later he was taken out to the market place and hanged.

Mayne was typical of the new priests. By their preaching and books, by their administration of the sacraments in secret, but, above all, by their example of a holy life, they won many back to the Old Faith. That it was not too late, was due to William Allen. For the majority of Englishmen believed still in their hearts that the Catholic religion was right, but in practice and from fear went to the new Church.

When the Queen's Councillors saw this, and saw that the country, the towns, the inns of court, the universities, and houses of the nobility and even the court itself had in them men and women won back to the religion into which they had been baptized, they began deeply to regret their mistake. By cruel laws, by spreading terror in all parts of the country, by every human means and contrivance, they set themselves to thwart the work of Allen.

Meanwhile the trickle of new priests had become a steady flow. Other seminaries were started. Only a few years after the foundation of Douai a group of men there left to become the first students of a new College in Rome. The Pope, Gregory XIII, the successor of Pius V who had excommunicated Elizabeth, had handed over to Allen an hospice for English pilgrims founded in the holy city by King Alfred: but in handing it over, he laid down as a condition of his gift, that if England again should become a Catholic country, then the building should once more be used as an hospice.

Edmund Campion and the Jesuits

When Allen visited Rome to establish this College he persuaded the Father General of the Jesuits to send back to their own country as missionaries some Englishmen who had joined the Society of Jesus abroad. At this time the reputation of the new Order, from Sicily to Scandinavia, was exaggerated fantastically beyond the merits of the men who composed it.

When finally, after much negotiation, Edmund Campion, disguised as a traveller in diamonds, slipped unnoticed past the Customs officials at Dover in May 1580, and joined his companion, Father Persons, in London, the whole country began talking about "a Jesuit invasion."

Though other priests from the new seminaries possessed equal courage, character and resourcefulness, none could match Campion in his power to express the spirit that fired them all. Hastily, while his horse was being saddled for a journey into the shires he wrote, against the day of his capture, a challenge to the Privy Council, explaining the reasons why he had returned to England. It was so stirring a document that the friends to whom he had given it for safekeeping had it copied immediately and passed round the London prisons.

"My charge is," wrote Campion, "of free cost to preach the gospel, to minister the sacraments, to instruct the simple, to reform sinners, to confute errors—in brief, to cry alarm spiritual against foul vice and proud ignorance, wherewith many, my dear countrymen, are abused."

He demanded a public debate on religion, first with the Lords of the Council, then with the Doctors and Masters of both universities, and, finally, with the men of the law. Aware that his challenge might be interpreted as an "insolent brag," he protested that he was only suing for combat with any or all of them, preferably in the presence of the Queen. His desire was to show his countrymen on what solid ground the Catholic Faith was built. He concluded with an appeal to the Queen herself in words that stirred the whole of England.
"Many innocent hands," he wrote, "are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students whose posterity shall never die, which beyond the seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose, are determined never to give you over, but either to win you to heaven or to die upon your pikes."

He declared that all the priests preparing now to enter England were ready to suffer death rather than renounce the struggle. "The expense is reckoned," he said, "the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the Faith was planted, so it must be restored."

Battle Joined

One night about the time that Campion landed, a young boy from near Lichfield, called Edmund Gennings, who liked to go out on clear nights to watch the stars, saw a great battle joined in the sky. Two armies were ranged against each other: many were slaughtered and some who carried no weapons murdered: and there was an immense stream of blood running everywhere about them.

The child ran back to his mother who was supping with some neighbors. They all bore witness to the sight: and it was seen at the same time in other parts of England. In the same month there occurred in London a great earthquake which put men in fear and amazement. The gentlemen students of the Temple who were at supper ran out with their knives in their hands and a piece of the Temple Church fell down. Also the great clock-bell of Westminster struck of itself without shaking against the hammer.

Indeed the coming of Campion was the crisis of the reign. The battle was fully joined: and no quarter was given by the Council.

Now the Queen could seek only to brand the new priests traitors. And in an age when politics were closely interwoven with religion her task was not difficult.

Campion Captured

After fifteen months of missionary travels Campion was captured. Immediately the Queen issued a proclamation in which she spoke of the new priests as worthless ruffians who crept into the kingdom by stealth and in disguise and under false names, in order to encompass her death. By making them odious in the eyes of the people, she thought to make their ministry ineffective.

"They do come into the kingdom," she stated, "by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some apparelled like soldiers, mariners, or merchants, some as gentlemen . . . and many as gallants," in appearance always unlike what they really are—friars, priests, Jesuits and scholars.

In a desperate effort to maintain that they were traitors, the Council cruelly tortured the priests that fell into its hands. It was hoped that they might confess some degree of complicity in plots about which they knew nothing.

Among the tortures used in the Tower was the rack which, by means of wooden rollers and other machinery, pulled the limbs of the suffered in opposite directions. There was also the Scavenger's Daughter, an iron hoop which brought the head, feet and hands together until they formed a circle, and also the iron gauntlet which enclosed the hand with the most excruciating pain.

When Campion was taken off the rack for the third time and brought back to his cell, he was so numbed that he jokingly compared himself to an elephant which could not rise from the ground; then when he was given bread to eat he took it, not in his fingers but in the palms of his hands, and compared himself to an ape. His companion, Alexander Briant, was so brutally used that Norton, the rack-master, as he was called, boasted that he had made him a foot longer than God had done. Yet, on his last racking, Briant was so wrapped in ecstasy that he felt no pain at all. Indeed he was comforted in a miraculous way as he meditated on the Passion of Our Lord. "Whilst I was thus occupied," he wrote afterwards, "me-thought that my left hand was wounded in the palm, and that I felt blood run out. But indeed there was no such thing." Some thought that he, like St. Francis, had received a hidden stigmata.

When in November 1581, Campion and Briant with Sherwin and others stood their trial in Westminster Hall, the charge against them was not that they had attempted to win the Queen's subjects back from the new religion to the old, but that they had been involved in a plot to invade Ireland in the Pope's interest. This was the legal pretext on which they were condemned. The jury, on no evidence at all, found them guilty. After they had been asked whether they had anything to say, Campion, in the name of them all, protested:
"The only thing we have to say is, that if our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned; but otherwise we are, and have been, as good subjects as ever the Queen had. In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors—all the ancients, priests, bishops and kings—all that once was the glory of England, the island of saints and the most devoted child of the Holy See. For what have we taught however you may qualify it with the odious name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned with these lights—not of England only, but of the world—by their degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us. God lives; posterity will live; their judgment is not so liable to corruption as that of those who are now going to sentence us to death."

On 1st December 1581 Campion was executed at the gallows at Tyburn outside London on the west side, along with Alexander Briant and Ralph Sherwin, the first martyr from the Roman College.

No Treason

It is a fact that there were certain bogus plots [false flag operations!—Ed.] fostered by the Queen's agents as perhaps there were a number of authentic attempts against her life; but it is equally true that the priests were not connected with them. Their behaviour on the scaffold, their transparent innocence, their brave and humble speech gave the lie in London and throughout the country to the political charges on which they had been executed.

Ralph Sherwin expressed his clear conscience in a letter written on the eve of his execution to his uncle.
Quote:"Innocency," he told him, "is my only comfort against all the forged villainy which is fathered on my fellow priests and me. Well, when my high judge, God himself, this false vizard of treason shall be removed from true Catholic men's faces, then shall it appear who they be that carry a well meaning, and who an evil murdering mind. In the mean season God forgive all injustice."

The sentence these priests underwent was the cruellest on the statute book, a penalty reserved for traitors. While common criminals, like murderers, cattle-thieves, coin-clippers and highwaymen, were hanged and left to die by the rope, the priests, as traitors, were hanged, drawn and quartered. They were permitted to hang only until they were half-suffocated, when a fellow squatting on the crossbeam of the gallows cut the rope, and dropped the body to the ground. The shock of the fall frequently brought the priest back to consciousness. In that state he was dragged to the executioner's block where he was held down while his heart was drawn out. Then the executioner, taking the priest's heart into his hand, held it up before the crowd, with the words, "Behold, the heart of a traitor," The people were expected to reply, "Aye, aye," but in the execution of priests this response was seldom heard.

Afterwards the body was cut into four quarters; each quarter was placed on a pike and displayed in some city thoroughfare for a warning against treachery.

Wales Remains Catholic

Meanwhile Wales remained for the most part Catholic. The new religion of Englishmen was suspect to a nation that had been subject for only a few hundred years to a foreign crown. In the hills and villages priests were busy. Mass was said with little secrecy. The shrine of St. Winifred at Holywell in Flintshire still drew crowds as it had done in Catholic days. When Welshmen were forced to send their children to the new church for christening, they had them baptized a second time at home by a priest. Under cover of night they carried out their own burials according to the Catholic rites. Both gentry and peasants stayed devout, showing much reverence for the old practices—they still burnt candles in the churches, told their beads, kept vigils on the eve of Our Lady's feasts. Even after the ancient shrines were pulled down, they continued to pray in the places where they had once stood.

Richard Gwyn

The preachers, though active, were ineffective. The first to suffer for the faith in Wales was Richard Gwyn, a schoolmaster in the county of Denbighshire. A married man with six children, a poet and a spokesman of his people, he appeared altogether eight times before the Assize Judges. On one occasion he was carried heavily shackled to the Protestant church at Wrexham but rattled his chains so loudly below the pulpit that the minister could not make himself heard; on another when a red-nosed parson asserted that the keys of heaven had no more been given to St. Peter than any Welsh minister, he answered, "The keys you yourself have received are manifestly the keys of the beer cellar."

After Richard's condemnation at the Wrexham Assizes, his wife with her infant baby was brought into court and cautioned not to emulate her husband. "
If you lack blood," she answered the judge, "then you may take mine as well as my husband's!"

On 17 October 1584, as he left prison for execution in the market place, he told the sorrowing crowd, "Weep not for me. I do but pay the rent before the rent-day." For his bearing and bravery Richard Gwyn has been described as the Thomas More of Wales.

A New Bill

Since it was now impossible to pretend that such men were executed for treason—for in no instance had it been proved against them—a new Bill was passed in the year following Gwyn's execution. It was the first piece of parliamentary legislation against the men from Allen's Colleges and became law on 29 March 1585. Entitled "An Act against Jesuits, Seminary Priests and Other Such Like Disobedient Persons," it made it high treason for a priest born in England and ordained overseas to return to the Queen's dominions and a felony for anyone to receive or assist him in any way whatsoever. Under this act more than two hundred men and women, priests and laypeople, suffered martyrdom. The last of them was the Welsh Jesuit, David Lewis, who was executed at Usk on 27 August 1679.

It was hoped by means of this law to drive out the priests from their places of hiding and round them up in the inns and on the highways, and then ship them back to the continent and thus once and for all rid England of the Mass.

Less than a month after the passing of this law, some of the leading Catholic laymen met secretly at Hoxton, outside London, and there decided that all priests should shift for themselves, for no man, only God, could command any person to take a priest into his house at the price of his own life.

One poor priest, John Brushford, who came over about this time, found everyone so full of fear that none would receive him into his house. So with another priest he hired a chamber in a poor cottage in a wood, near Tottenham High Cross, and there remained for six or seven weeks, sending a poor man into the city to buy food for them.

During the following summer, therefore, priests visited houses only when asked for by the people.

Days Full of Suffering

The days that succeeded the Parliament were full of suffering for Catholics. Many were captured. The crisis was described by a priest who lived through it.
"Catholics," he wrote, "now saw their own country—the country of their birth—turned into a ruthless and unloving land. All men fastened their hatred on them. They lay in ambush for them and betrayed them, attacked them with violence and without warning. They plundered them at night, confiscated their possessions, drove away their flocks, stole their cattle....In the common thoroughfares and at crossways watchers were posted, so that no traveller could pass peacefully on his way or escape the most stringent scrutiny. On the same night and at the same hour, now a single town, now several throughout the kingdom, experienced the sudden incursion of secret spies. Inns, taverns, lodging houses, bed-chambers were searched with utmost vigor, and any suspected person, unable to give a satisfactory account of himself, was put in prison or under guard until the next morning."

To instill worse fear into priests and their protectors, the government spread rumors that a general massacre of Catholics was planned in London. Whenever, during this summer, the reports gained credence, Catholics would leave their homes and lodgings, or pass the night in the fields outside the city: or they would hire boats and paddle all night up and down the river. As one priest remarked, it appeared that the prophesy of Our Lord was then fulfilled: "They will put you out of the synagogues and whoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God."

At this time, the example of a Catholic lady of York inspired men and women far and beyond her own city to even more heroic loyalty to the Mass.

Margaret Clitherow

Margareth Clitherow was the daughter of a wax chandler and the husband of a prosperous butcher. Two or three years after her marriage she had returned to the Old Faith. Her home in the Shambles—it can be seen today—became a refuge for homeless and impoverished priests. She cared for them, hid them, answered their Mass, clothed and fed them. Several times she was imprisoned. Finally she was brought to trial on the charge of harboring priests. To the amazement of the court she refused to plead, because, had she done so, her own children would have been forced to witness against her. She was condemned, therefore, to the penalty of peine forte. The sentence was read: "You must be stripped naked, laid down, your back upon the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days: and on the third day to be pressed to death."

The Protestants of York had described Margaret as a fanatic, but her speech to the judge after he had passed sentence proved them wrong. Simply and without emotion she spoke like any loving wife and mother.
Quote:"You charge me wrongfully," she said. "I die not desperately nor do I willingly procure my own death: for not being guilty of such crimes as were laid against me, and yet condemned to die, I could but rejoice, for my cause is also God's quarrel. Neither did I fear the terror of the sentence of death, but I was ashamed to hear its shameful words spoken in this audience, such as to strip me naked and press me to death among men, which I thought for womanhood they might not have uttered. As for my husband, know you that I love him next unto God in this world and I have care over my children as a mother ought to have: I trust I have done my duty to them to bring them up in the fear of God, and so I trust now I am discharged of them. And for this cause I am willing to offer them freely to God that sent them me rather than yield one jot of my faith. I confess death is fearful and flesh is frail. Yet I mind by God's assistance to spend my blood in this Faith as willingly as ever I put my paps to my children's mouths."

In prison Margaret sewed a loose shift, for she was determined not to die naked. On Lady Day, 25 March 1586, she was taken from prison. The sentence was not extended over three days: she was permitted to wear her shift. She was a quarter of an hour dying, but her body was left for about six hours in the press near the toll booth on the bridge over the River Ouse.

Gallant Lay Catholics

Margaret was typical of the lay Catholics of Yorkshire who were prepared to make any sacrifices for the Mass. Many of them were simple people, bricklayers, tailors, bakers and weavers. When they were brought before the courts for not attending the Protestant services all knew and could express the reasons for their refusal. Some said they would not go to church because there was neither priest, altar nor sacrifice there; others simply protestated that things were not as they ought to be or had been hitherto.

The most eloquent declaration came from Lady Cecily Sonor, who had been Campion's hostess at her home near Henley-on-Thames. She was an elderly woman and declared to the judges:
"I was born in such a time when Holy Mass was in great reverence. In King Edward (VI)'s time this reverence was neglected and reproved by such as governed. In Queen Mary's time it was restored with much applause, and now in this time it pleaseth the state to question them, as now they do me, who continue in this Catholic profession....I hold still to that wherein I was born and bred, and find nothing taught in it but great virtue and sanctity, and so by the grace of God I will live and die in it."
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
The Angelus - December 1982

Elizabethan Catholics and the Mass
III. It Was The Mass That Mattered
by Philip Caraman, S.J.

In the concluding article of this series, Father Caraman brings out with the utmost clarity that it was for the Mass that Catholics under Elizabeth suffered and died. And they won—in this sense, that the Old Mass was never driven out of England by the persecution which she raised against it. Grateful acknowledgements to Christian Order.

WOMEN like Cecily Stonor and Margaret Clitherow were to be found all over the country. They came forward to offer their homes as shelters for priests; their houses, big and small, became the new churches and chapels of the old Faith; people flocked to them for Mass and the sacraments, for guidance and comfort as in former days they had gone to the great monasteries that were now untenanted and in ruins.

It was said that no Catholic was ever known to complain at the length of services.
"If a Mass does not last nearly an hour," one priest wrote, "many people are discontented. If six, eight or more Masses are said in the same place and on the same day (as often happens when there is a meeting of priests), the same congregation will assist at all."

However, there was no plan for the distribution of priests. Far too many made their way to London, for as the city was accustomed to strangers, they could survive longer there before attracting notice. But in the country it was different. Some shires had no priest at all to look after them. As each newly ordained man from the seminary came over, he fended for himself as best he could. In an age when local differences of speech marked a person as a foreigner in any but his own part of the country, priests who did not drift to London tended to make for their native district.

Henry Garnet & Catholic Centers

This was the situation in England when Henry Garnet stepped secretly ashore about a mile east of Folkestone in July 1586. He had no authority except what was freely accorded him by his fellow missionaries. With their assistance he set himself the task of establishing Catholic centers in all parts of the country that were still untended.

Plans were laid: and so systematically, that within ten years every county in England had a network of Catholic houses served by more than three hundred priests: and that in spite of continuing losses through death and imprisonment.

Usually there were two priests assigned to each house, one to serve the family and their friends, the other to go abroad in answer to calls of the sick and dying. In one Yorkshire center, described by the priest who served it, there lived three knights and their ladies, with their families and Catholic servants. In the order and regularity of the day it resembled a religious house of an earlier century. On Sundays and holy days the doors were unlocked and all came to Mass and heard a sermon; then later there was a catechism class for the children. On work days there were usually two Masses, the first, at six in the morning for the servants, and for all the gentlemen and for the ladies if they were not sick; the other was at eight, for those who had been absent from the first. In the afternoon at four o'clock there was evensong, and after that matins, attended by all the knights and their ladies, except when some extraordinary business prevented them. Most of the household also gave some time to meditation or mental prayer, and all at least every fourteen days confessed and communicated. After supper every night at nine o'clock, litanies were said together; and so immediately to bed.

A Catholic Cause Recovers

As houses like this became common throughout England the Catholic cause recovered. From the continent Allen addressed a message to the priests and people in England.
"Our days of affliction," he told them, "cannot be long. Both sides shall shortly face their doom, where the dealings of us all shall truly be discussed, and the just shall stand in great constancy against them that vexed them."

Then he declared his resolve: "In joyful expectation of that day we will continue still this work of God for our own and our country's salvation."
One of the most important Catholics who contributed to this work was Nicholas Owen. A carpenter, stone mason and saint, he attached himself about this time to Garnet as his servant. In all the new centers Owen constructed hiding places, so that in the case of sudden raids (and they were frequent), the priest who lived in the house, or happened to be staying there, could be quickly stowed away while for a few short minutes the servants held the searchers at bay either at the gate of the park or the main entrance to the mansion. By his skill Owen was the instrument for saving the lives of many hundred persons, both priests and lay people. Thanks to him, sometimes five or six priests who were gathered in the same house were able to escape capture.

Owen was greatly admired for his discretion as well as his skill. He was never known to mention any house where he had been at work. Each place he built was different from the rest, so that, if one was discovered, it would give no clue to the construction of another. He began every new task by receiving Communion, and while he worked, he prayed. He was the man who might have brought death to more priests and ruin to more gentlemen than any other living Catholic. Indeed, had he betrayed his secrets, the damage to the Church would have been incalculable, for he knew the residences of almost every priest in England and the places where they were hidden, so that on a word from him all might have been taken like partridges in a net.

When eventually Nicholas was captured he was tortured to death. All the time of his agony he remained silent.

The year of the Spanish Armada, 1588, was perhaps the worst yet for English Catholics, for it gave the Queen the opportunity of branding them friends of the Spaniards. In the space of twelve months more than twenty-two priests were lost on the gallows, many more died in prison. Among the men and women of every station in society who were sentenced to death in the same year for the assistance they gave to priests, the most notable was Margaret Ward, a woman from Cheshire, who smuggled into a prison a rope by which a priest there called Watson made his escape.

It was the Mass that Mattered

In spite of the Queen's official assertions, it was manifest to all in every part of the realm that religion and in particular the Mass, was the true reason for these executions. Indeed Catholics, insofar as the law allowed them, were the first to come forward in defense of their country in her hour of danger.

Again, to keep up this pretense of their disloyalty, the Queen imprisoned all the principal Catholic laymen as men unsafe to be free at such a time. But again the people were unconvinced. On behalf of all these Catholics a knight from Rushton in Northamptonshire, Sir Thomas Tresham, pleaded with the Queen that, if the Spanish army should land on English soil, then he and his fellow Catholic prisoners should be privileged to stand, not in the rear of the line, but in the vanguard, and before the vanguard, "to witness to the world and leave record to all posterity of our religious loyalty and true English valour in defense of her Majesty's sacred person and the noble realm of England."

Still the official lies persisted. While priests on the scaffold, using the right of condemned criminals to address the crowd before execution, won the sympathy of all who stood by, the Council gave out that these men were the scum of the realm. Sir Robert Cecil called them creeping vermin.

Robert Southwell Brings Strength

It was Robert Southwell, who had landed in England with Garnet, that first came to their defense. He had been their teacher in Rome and now met and helped them on their arrival in London from the English College.

Southwell himself was the son of a courtier, Sir Richard Southwell, who had been brought up in childhood with Elizabeth. First he pointed out that the baseness of birth, which had been made a charge against his fellow priests, implied no offense against God or crime against the Queen. Then he showed that many of their number were the sons of knights or esquires or connected with the noble families of the realm; men who were heirs to large estates or fortunes and had renounced all to become priests. Among the few Catholic priests in England, just one-tenth the number of Protestant ministers, there were more gentlemen than among all the other clerics of the kingdom.

Birth was unimportant: it was the spirit and character of the students that mattered: and the training they received. Their regime was strict, their diet meagre, the conditions of their life austere: hundreds of English travelers abroad testified to this. Both at Rome and Douai the students attended lectures in religious controversy, which made them more than a match for the new ministers, who, sometimes had been sketchily educated. Many stories were told, even by Protestants, against their own pastors. For instance not far from Cambridge the Vicar of Trumpinton was the laughingstock of the University. On Palm Sunday when he was reading the gospel and came to the words, Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani (Lord, Lord, why hast Thou forsaken Me), he stopped and calling on the church wardens said, "This must be amended. Here is Eli twice in the book. I assure you that if my Lord of Ely (meaning the Bishop of the diocese) comes this way, he will have the book, for his name is in it. Therefore we shall scratch it out and put in our own town's name, so it shall read, Trumpinton, Trumpinton, lama sabacthani." And it was done!

This may have been a joke of the Cambridge graduates, but still there was no question that the priests were usually better trained. They were also taught to be severe on themselves while always showing great compassion towards the laity, especially those who had fallen from the faith for fear of ruin to their families.
Quote:"Be not hard, nor rough, nor rigorous in absolving them when they confess their infirmities," Allen urged them. "Yet, on the other hand, you must have great regard that you teach not nor defend what is contrary to the practice of the Church and the holy Doctors."

Allen wrote also to the Catholic faithful, exhorting them to perseverance. His theme was an old one expressed in new phrases. "Our days cannot be many, because we are men," he told them. And he pointed out that it was not the wisdom either of God or man to hazard the loss of eternity for a remnant of mortal life, perhaps a few years, perhaps only a few months. The man who dies on a pillow, he told them, has as little ease as the man who dies on the gallows or block under the butcher's knife.

Persecution in the North

About the time Allen wrote, there was a fresh outbreak of persecution in the North. In 1591 justices of the peace, constables and other officials were given unlimited power in a last desperate attempt to eliminate the Mass. A whole rabble army of priest hunters was raised and given authority to imprison Catholics of every class if they did not attend the Protestant services; they could even compel non-Catholic gentlemen to hand over their Catholic wives; lists of Catholics were made; if they did not comply, they also were imprisoned.

In all the villages and towns of Yorkshire and Durham Catholic gentlemen went abroad to other countries, while the poorer people left their homes and fled to the hills and moors. There they dug dwelling places for themselves in the earth or out of the rocks, and passed their days and nights in them until the searchers had passed. Others lived in ancient ruins, underground, with all their household; when it was possible they made separate beds, and partitioned off small rooms. For their fellow occupants they had toads, adders, frogs, lizards and such like creatures. As soon as word reached them that the searchers were in the neighborhood, a continual look-out, day and night, was kept against them. For five or six weeks at a time they lived in constant terror. If rain fell at night, it soon seeped through the dry sods that served for their roof and sometimes immersed them almost to the waist in water.

New Treason

This persecution was the result of a new royal proclamation, issued in October, 1591. Among other brutal measures against Catholics, it was now declared treason for a priest to receive any English man or woman into the Church, and also for any such person to be received.

Topcliffe, Priest-Hunter

But the Queen's new proclamation might never have been enforced had it not been for Richard Topcliffe, a priest-hunter, and a man of unsurpassed wickedness. Among Catholics his name was always mentioned with terror: "the most sordid of men," was the phrase they used to describe him.

This evil, ageing, grey-haired creature had his own private army of thugs recruited from the dregs of the people. The strength of his position with the Queen rested on the undertaking he gave her to drag from all the priests who fell into his hands a confession that they had plotted against her life; in other words, it was not for their priesthood, but for their treachery, that they were hounded to death. In return Topcliffe was given a free hand in the treatment of his victims. He boasted that whenever he sought an audience of the Queen, he was granted it.

In order to make good his promise more promptly, Topcliffe was given a license to practice his tortures privately in his own house, which adjoined the Gatehouse prison at the entrance to the old Abbey of Westminster.

Martyrs of the Mass

Among the first to suffer under him were four simple men, three of them priests and the fourth a school-master. They form a single company for they were all executed on the same day, 10 December 1591.

Swithun Wells was typical of many Englishmen of his time. Without any attachment to the new services, he had attended them in the belief that the day would certainly come when the Mass would once more be restored to its place. He had traveled abroad, was an accomplished linguist and musician; he entertained well, was good company and a fine sportsman. On his marriage he had set up a school at Monkton Farleigh near Bath in Somerset with permission from the Protestant bishop. But later he sacrificed everything to become a Catholic. He then rented a house at the upper end of Holborn for priests in London. His wife Alice and his daughter Margaret assisted him.

On the first Sunday in Advent, 1591, two priests arrived there to say their Matins together and afterwards to offer Mass.

Fr. Edmund Gennings had got no further than the Consecration when Topcliffe, with his assistants, broke into the house and through the door of the upper room where a small congregation of about ten Catholics was gathered. One of them, John Mason, seized hold of him, hurled him down the stairs and fell with him; the rest stood guarding the broken door. The second priest, Polydore Plasden (also called Oliver Palmer) came out. Topcliffe, who was nursing his broken head, threatened to raise the whole street, but fearing another toss, he agreed to Plasden's offer that the two priests should surrender themselves, if he would permit the Mass to be concluded without sacrilege.

Still wearing his vestments, Gennings was taken through the London streets, with all who had been present at his Mass. The chalice, missal and the altar furnishings were carried before him in mockery. Swithun Wells was out of his house at the time, but he was arrested on his return.

In prison, Swithun, who loved always to be with his friends, was confined alone.

"Yet I am not alone," he told them. Then he added in Latin, "Solus non est cui Christus comes sit: he is not alone who has Christ for his companion. When I pray, I talk with God; when I read, He talketh to me."

With these men was tried Eustace White, a priest from Louth in Lincolnshire. He had been tortured almost to extremity by Topcliffe, and for forty-six days he slept only on a little straw, in his boots, his hands continually manacled. He came shivering to his trial in the tattered summer clothes he was wearing when he was taken. Topcliffe wanted to make him appear a miserable wraith. He had also thought of forcing Fr. Gennings to dress up in jester's clothes he had seized at Swithun's house.

On the Queen's instructions Swithun Wells, together with Fr. Gennings, was executed on a specially erected scaffold in Gray's Inn Fields, outside his own house; she thought thus to strike greater terror into Catholics.

Swithun was gay. As he was led to execution, he met an old hunting companion. "Farewell, old friend," he called happily to him, "Farewell, all hawking, hunting and old past-times. I go a better way."

Topcliffe assisted at their execution. Gennings spoke to the crowd.

Quote:"I must obey God rather than men. If to return into England a priest and to say Mass be Popish treason, I here confess I be a traitor, but I think not so."

When he was ripped open and his bowels cast into the fire, if credit can be given to the hundreds of people standing by, and to the hangman himself, he was heard to pray, "Sancte Gregori, ora pro me. At that moment the hangman had the priest's heart in his hand. He swore: "God's wounds. See his heart is in my hand, and yet Gregory is in his mouth. O egregious Papist!"

It was Pope St. Gregory who had sent Augustine to England, where he founded his see at Canterbury.

Martyrs not Traitors

The people of the North were taken in no more than Londoners by the propaganda against the priests. When, in the next year, 1592, John Boste was executed at Durham, more than three hundred ladies and women of the city walked with him in a solemn procession to the gallows. Asked where they were going, they answered, "to accompany that gentleman, that servant of God, to his death, as the Maries did Christ to Calvary." Hardly a man in the North believed that he was a traitor.

But the execution of no single priest did more to nail the slander against priests than did Robert Southwell's. He was now the best known and best loved priest in England. Non-Catholics acknowledged him as a poet, Catholics as a saint. He was Topcliffe's greatest prize: and, like Gennings and his companions, had been seized by this arch-fiend himself, who had gone out from London with a veritable army of followers to Uxenden Manor, near Harrow in Middlesex, where Southwell had been asked to say Mass and preach at a friend's house.

Betrayed by one of the household, Southwell came out of his hiding place to confront Topcliffe in the hall of the mansion. Slim, straightly-built, and with auburn eyes, he was still only thirty, but looked much younger. As they faced each other for the first time, Topcliffe shook with frenzy. He asked Southwell who he was. "A gentleman," Southwell answered. Topcliffe swore: "No, a priest, a traitor, a Jesuit." Then he rushed at him with his sword, but his men held him back.

"No, it is neither a priest nor a traitor you are seeking, but only blood. And if mine will satisfy you, you shall have it as freely as my mother gave it to me; and if it will not, I do not doubt you shall find many more as willing as myself."

Southwell's heroism under torture drew from Sir Robert Cecil, Sir William's son and successor, reluctant admiration. He had seen him at Topcliffe's mercy, silent and suffering. Riding out of London some time later with a friend, Cecil recalled the sight. "They boast," he told him, "about the heroes of antiquity, but we have a new torture which it is not possible for a man to endure. And yet I have seen Robert Southwell hanging by it, still as a tree-trunk, and none able to drag one word from his mouth."

A fellow priest described him as "a Goliath of fortitude."

Topcliffe was present at Southwell's trial. The priest's sufferings were now over, and he spoke only to save his companions from what he himself had endured. Upon his soul's salvation he declared that he had been tortured more than ten times by Topcliffe and that the memory of those tortures was worse than ten deaths. When Topcliffe challenged him to show the marks of his treatment, Southwell answered, "As a woman to show her throes."

Catholics watched Southwell as he walked back to prison, and noted that he carried himself with the composure of a monk. They remarked that this was an indication of saintliness in a man who had been separated from the sacraments for nearly two years.

Another priest, Henry Walpole, executed six weeks after Southwell, on 7 April 1595, had never said Mass on English soil. He was captured near Bridlington less than twenty-four hours after landing on the Yorkshire coast. Although he was taken to London for torture, he was returned to York for trial—Southwell's behavior on the scaffold at Tyburn had so convinced the crowd of the innocence of priests that the Queen did not dare have another executed in the capital till the memory of Southwell's death had faded.

At York Walpole pleaded that he did not fall under the law that made priests traitors, since it concerned only those that did not give themselves up within forty-eight hours of landing. Walpole argued that when he was arrested his time had not run out. Nevertheless he was executed.

Philip Howard

A fellow-prisoner of both Walpole and Southwell in the Tower had been Philip Howard, the leading nobleman in England. As an infant he had been baptized by Nicholas Heath, the Archbishop of York in the royal chapel at Whitehall, a little over two years before the death of Queen Mary. His father was Thomas, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, the only Duke in England; his godfather, Philip, Mary's husband, after whom he was christened. As a young man he had been the favorite at court, witty, handsome, gay and cultivated. His life was given entirely to pleasure-seeking: Anne Dacres, whom he married, suffered his vagaries with patience.

In 1585, when he was twenty-seven years old, Philip broke from his former life and was received into the Church, an act of treason punishable by death. He determined now to go abroad, where he could attend Mass and lead a full Catholic life without restriction or penalty. His plan, however, was betrayed. He had hardly embarked than his ship was boarded by the Queen's men and he was brought back a prisoner to the Tower.

There he remained. The Queen who thought she knew him well, believed he would weaken and reform, but she did not take account of the grace he had been given. Philip was no longer the impulsive, petulant youth, the fickle darling of her court, but a man moulded by God, and set by grace to endure a long imprisonment, even suffer death, for his Faith. Most of his days he passed in prayer. His only help came from letters written to him by Robert Southwell, who later, for the benefit of other Catholic prisoners, published them in a book which he entitled An Epistle of Comfort.

After some two years in prison Philip, by bribing his gaoler, got access to the cell of a priest, Father William Bennet. A chalice, some wine and vestments were smuggled in, and there, on Sundays and feast days, a little congregation gathered for Mass. Philip usually served.

Although he was tried and condemned to death, the sentence was never carried out. The Queen was afraid, for it was obvious to the whole of England that Philip was not a traitor. Indeed, after sentence had been passed and he was let out of Westminster Hall with the blade of the executioner's axe turned inwards toward his face (an indication at the trial of nobles that the prisoner had been found guilty) there arose suddenly from the waiting crowd such a great cry of horror that it could be heard for a great distance both up and down the river.

Philip lived on in his cell, with his dog and faithful servant. Slowly he was dying. The end came on 19 October, just eight months after Southwell's execution. When he could no longer read, he spent his time saying his beads or reciting psalms and prayers he knew from memory. The priest who had reconciled him to the Church spoke of him after his death as a peer of two realms, of earth and of heaven.

Thomas Colton

Another prisoner, very different in age and origin, but similar to Philip in resolution, who suffered cruelly for the Faith was Thomas Colton, a poor lad who had been a servant to the priests confined in Wisbech Castle. He was in prison in Bridewell while Philip lay dying in the Tower. Thomas had been caught at Rye, in Hampshire, while trying to cross the sea to a seminary abroad. Brought before the Archbishop of Canterbury and his commissioners at Lambeth, he was asked to give reasons why he would not go to church. He answered,
"If I should go to church, I should sin against God and the peace and unity of the whole Catholic Church, exclude myself from all the holy sacraments and be in danger to die in my sins like a heathen."

He continued: "I am a poor lad, but I hear say that England has been a Catholic country a thousand years before this Queen's reign or her father's. If that were the old high way to heaven, why should I forsake it? My soul hungers after my maker, God made man, under the form of bread, whom none but the priests can give me; while you do keep both them and me from the old Mass, I dare not go to your new communion."

In Bridewell the boy was brutally handled. For nine weeks he was chained to a block, and for another five he stood with both his hands stretched above his head against a wall in the standing stocks.
"And last for my freedom," he ends his story, "I had twenty lashes of the whip upon by trews, and yet I was so comforted by God and others, good men, that I would not have missed my time spent there for a great deal more misery."

Even before his conversion, Philip Howard had written in rebuke to a friend for treating a beggar with discourtesy. "Verily, you have too much forgot yourself, good Sir, in abusing such a poor man. Before God there is no difference between poor and rich, betwixt beggar and the gentleman. We are all of the same nature, made of the same mould. Those who are of better birth or higher degree ought not to condemn others, much less insult them, but rather help them."

John Rigby

John Rigby was not a beggar or of low degree, but his occupation was humble. A Lancashire man from near Wigan, he became the steward of a Catholic family at Sawston Hal, where Nicholas Owen had made two hiding places. Appearing one day in a suit touching his master's business, he confessed that he had been reconciled to the Church, and to his surprise was condemned to death for this account. He was young, sturdily built, unmarried, about thirty years of age. As he stood waiting execution at the foot of the ladder, at St. Thomas Waterings in Southwark, he prayed aloud until, in reciting the Creed, he came to the phrase, "the holy Apostles St. Peter and Paul." When the people heard this, they protested that he was praying to saints and he was not permitted to continue. He was cut down so short a time after the cart was drawn away, that he stood again upright on his feet, and in full possession of his senses was dragged by the executioners to the quartering block. "God forgive you," he said aloud and distinctly, "Jesus, receive my soul." When he felt them pulling his heart out, he was still so strong that instinctively he thrust the fellows from him. Finally they cut off his head and divided his quarters, pinning them in several places about the city to the south of the Thames.

Popham Replaces Topcliffe

Shortly after Rigby's death on 21 June 1600, Topcliffe fell from favor with the Queen. Desperately as he had tried, he had failed to make good his undertaking to her that he would prove Catholics to be traitors. People thought that some mercy would be shown to Catholics now that Topcliffe was gone and the Queen herself could not be far from her closing days, but the contrary happened. As the weeks drew on, her fear of assassination increased; and now, in Topcliffe's place, there was the Chief Justice, Sir John Popham, who was held in detestation by both Catholics and the country at large.

Anne Line

Among the first to suffer at his hands was a lady from Essex, Anne Line, who kept three adjoining houses in London. In the first she looked after a number of small children and instructed them in the Faith; in the second, she had a resident chaplain; the third and largest she used as a hostel for priests.

Her health was poor; she lived in great poverty, frequently she suffered exhaustion; but she worked ceaselessly, and her time not given to housekeeping she devoted to making vestments.

On Candlemas Day, 1601, she was arrested in her own house. Although she was sick, Popham insisted that she should be carried in her invalid chair to her trial. On the scaffold she told the people:
Quote:"I am sentenced for harbouring a Catholic priest, and I am so far from repenting that I did so that I wish with all my soul that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand."

Anne Line was one of the last martyrs of the reign.

Mass Still Said in England

The priests, and the men and women who sacrificed their lives for them, had fought a long and unrelenting fight. But the Mass was still said in England. Moreover, in all parts of the country there were many families who were ready to become Catholic if no penalties were imposed, and still more would have done the same, if the priests had been permitted to preach openly: very few indeed were satisfied with the new religion that had replaced the old. From his own experience one priest reported that if it had been only possible to approach the dying, there was, even now, scarcely a man in England would not die a Catholic; and he added,
"It suits them all to live as heretics, but to die Catholics."

Thus, at the close of her reign, Elizabeth had only partially succeeded. Her dying years were most bitter.

Bitter Last Years

There was still a great multitude of Catholics in her realm. She looked ahead to her end with little composure, though in public she forced herself to be merry. In order to conceal the decay in her face, she stuffed fine cloths into her mouth to puff out her cheeks.

Sometimes, when walking out in winter, she would pull off her petticoat, as if to show she was too hot, while the ladies waiting on her were shivering with cold.

When she was still in moderate health, her chamberlain, Sir John Stanhope, presented her with a piece of gold the size of an angel, a current English coin, and told her that, by wearing it round her neck, an old lady in Wales had lived to a hundred and twenty years.

The Queen took it and placed it about her person: yet, though she did not fall suddenly sick, she slowly lost strength. For many days none of her Councillors could persuade her to take to her bed: indeed, during three nights she sat on her stool, fully dressed, refusing both to eat and drink. She would answer no questions and take no medicine. Once only she spoke softly to the Lord Admiral, Charles Howard, saying that if he knew what she had seen in her bed, he would not seek to persuade her as he did. She shook her head and with a pitiful voice, complained, "I am tied with a chain of iron about my neck." Howard reminded her of the courage she had always shown at times of crisis. The Queen replied: "I am tied and the case is altered with me."

Eventually after a further fifteen days, the Council sent to her the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other Bishops. This offended her. She angrily rated them and ordered them away, asserting that she knew full well that they were hedge-priests (a phrase of contempt both for their office and origin), and took it for an indignity that they should speak to her.

The Queen is Dead

During those days that she lay dying beyond hope of recovery, a strange silence descended on the city, as if it were under interdict and divine worship suspended. "Not a bell rung out," noted a priest imprisoned in the Tower.

"Not a bugle sounded—though ordinarily they were often heard."

About midnight on the 24th of March, the vigil of the Annunciation, she died. The next day, between eight and nine o'clock, the new King, James of Scotland, was proclaimed in the main streets of London. Once again bonfires were in the streets, and there were banquets and feasting.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)