Imatges de pàgina

the eyes of the world, it was now, in all respects, visibly changed for the better. Father Stanney, particularly extols his profound humility, his exact obedience, his virginal purity, and his perfect charity. This queen of virtues, had taken deep root in his heart; insomuch, that he was never better pleased, than when he was promoting the honour and glory of God, and the good of his neighbours, by instructing and catechising the ignorant, visiting prisoners confined for their religion, and exercising as occasion offered, all kinds of corporal, and spiritual works of mercy. Amongst which, my author particularly takes notice of a custom he had, when his companions were met together in the evenings, of reading some good book to them, such as the life of some saint, or some catechistical instruction ; by which means, he both confirmed the catholics in their religion, and disposed schismatics to their conversion.

After some time, he fell into a great sickness, and, in the height of his fever, amongst other things, he said, that the queen was a wh—e and a heretic. Some zealots that heard him, would have killed him upon the spot, but were hindered. However, before he was well recovered, he was, for these words, committed to Winchester jail, to be kept there till the next assizes. In the mean time, he begged of the keeper, that he might be employed in all the meanest offices, and do the drudgery of the prison, which was granted him.

At his trial, the judge asked him, what religion he was of? he answered, By the grace of God, I am a catholic, and am very willing to die for the catholic faith and religion. The judge asked him, what he meant by a catholic ? he answered, I mean by a catholic, one, who being baptized, professeth in word and work, the catholic faith and religion, delivered by the apostles to the universal church, and maintained by their successors. The judge pulled out a pair of beads with a little crucifix, and told him, See, here is the God you worship. But Lawrence, presently replied, Not so, my lord, but that crucifix brings to my remembrance, how much my Lord and Saviour suffered upon the cross for me, a most miserable sinner.

Then the judge asked him, how he came to say that the queen was a heretic ? Lawrence answered, with a most solenin asseveration, Before God and his angels, that he could not possibly remember that he had, ever in his life, spoke any such words ; But, said he, since divers witnesses affirm it, I shall not stand obstinately to deny it, but shall willingly suffer what punishment you shall inflict upon me. In fine, he was, for those words, condemned to die ; and so was sent back to prison. He received the sentence with joy, and spent the short remainder of his life, in meditations and prayers, which he performed, prostrate, upon the ground. When he was carried out to suffer, he made, at the gallows, a public profession of the catholic faith ; and, as he was going up the ladder, made the sign of the cross upon the rounds ; which the hangman, taking notice of, scoffed at him, saying, thou hast served the pope; but he has brought thee to the rope ; and the hangman shall have thy coat. Lawrence, smiled at his rhymes, which the other took in such ill part, as to give him a great box on the ear, in a great fury. The good

young man meekly replied, Why do you do so to me? I never in my life gave you any cause to treat me in this manner.

He was executed at Winchester, in the 21st year of his age, 1591.

RALPH MILLER, OR, MILNER. This good old man passed the greatest part of his life in a village near Winchester, maintaining his wife, and a large family of children, by the labour of his hands. He was entirely illiterate, but led a very moral life, following the religion then in fashion, till, comparing the lives of the catholics, with whom he was acquainted, with the lives of the protestants, and even of their very ministers, he found that the one sort followed a broad and easy way, neglecting fasting and prayer, and putting little or no restraint upon their appetites and sensual inclinations ; whilst the other sort was much addicted to fasting, prayer, and mortification ; and lay under most severe persecutions on account of their consciences, which they willingly suffered for God and their religion. These considerations had such effect upon him, as to determine him to quit the new way, and to return to the old religion; as he did, not long after; and being instructed and reconciled by a catholic priest, on the very day that he bad received the blessed sacrament, after having finished his general confession, he was apprehended and committed to jail, for his religion.

He was a prisoner, for his conscience, many years : but, as his behaviour had made the keeper his friend, he was not so close confined, but he had often liberty to go out upon his parole, and sometimes was sent out by the keeper about his own affairs, who also often trusted him with the keys of the prison. By these means, he had opportunity of doing great services to the poor catholic prisoners in those evil days; sometimes by procuring them alms; other times, by bringing priests to them to administer the holy sacraments to them. Neither was this his charity confined to the prison, but it also prompted him to procure spiritual assistances to the faithful dispersed about the country; to whom his zeal had, by this time, made him generally known. As an instance of this his charity, father Stanney, the writer of his life, takes notice, that he used to come once a month to the house where the father resided, to conduct him about the villages, there to preach and administer the sacraments to the poor : who also declares in his preface, that he can testify, that, ignorant as he was, he had, by the bright light of his virtues, and by his fervent prayers, been, under God, the cause of the conversion of many to the catholic faith.

• Once, says father Stanney, he came to me, desiring that I would take a journey with him, to preach and administer the sacraments, according to custom; when I was obliged, through necessity, to answer him, that I had been, not long since, in those parts, where I was very much fatigued with preaching, hearing confessions, and administering the sacraments: the more because I was obliged to watch whole nighis, and to celebrate mass twice in the day; so that I had not, as yet, been able to recover myself. Well, but master, said he, for so he used to call me, we have still a great many hungry souls that want bread, and there is no one to give it them: we have many also, that would be glad

to shake off the yoke of bondage “heresy' and embrace the catholic faith ; and I can find none to help them, and receive them into the church; what then must I say to them? I tell you, Ralph, the very truth, said I, I want not good will, but strength; wherefore, I beg they would have a little patience, and in a short time,

by the grace of God, I purpose entirely to satisfy their good desires. But what shall I do, said Ralph, if your reverence's health will not permit you to come amongst us? I replied, that I had been desirous, of a long time, to have another priest, who might be able to serve those parts ; and that if he could find a proper place for him, I would endeavour to procure them a proper priest." That I will do, said Ralph, with all my heart; and I hope to be able, in a short time, to provide him all necessaries. Our superior, with another priest, happened to come to me soon after this, and I consulted him what I was to do. He bid me ask Ralph, if he would be willing to have for their priest, Mr. Roger Diconson, whom he was very well acquainted with ? He presently answered, with all my heart ; for, above all others, I would be glad to live and die with that good man ; which afterwards happened.'

Ralph returned to carry the good news to his fellow prisoners, and the other catholics, and within a few weeks Mr. Diconson came to Winchester; where he laboured for some years, with great fruit, and great edification : his mission lying thiefly amongst the poor, and the prisoners. He was once taken in a gentleman's house in the country, and carried to Winchester, where he was put under the guard of six soldiers, in order to be removed to Lidin: but his guards having overdrank themselves, he escaped from them in the night. But being taken

second time, in the company of Ralph Miller, he was committed to Winchester jail : from whence he was sent up to London; and, after he had there been put to divers torments, was sent back to Winchester to take his trial ; where, as we have seen elsewhere, he suffered death with the same Ralph Miller, on account of his priestly character.

This good old man, whilst Mr. Diconson was in prison, lost no time, but employed himself in the best manner he could, in preparing for death. No endeavours were omitted by his worldly friends, and by the ministers, to bring him over to consent to save his life, by renouncing his religion ; but all in vain. Even when he was at the very gallows, they ceased not to tempt him; and sent his seven children to him, to move him to relent, by the sight of them : but his heart was too strongly fixed on God, to be overcome by flesh and blood. He gave them, therefore, his last blessing, declaring aloud,—That he could wish them no greater happiness, than to die for the like cause for which he was going to die. He suffered, July 7, 1591.

Thirdly, an account of the behaviour of the catholic prisoners in York castle, when,

by order of Lord Burleigh, at that time lord president of the north, the said catholic recusants, in number fifty-three, were dragged into the hall of the castle, and there forcibly detained to hear protestant sermons once a week, for the space of one year, or thereabouts. Collected from a manuscript written by W. Richmont, priest.

CHAP. I.-The prisoners, their speeches and behaviour at the first sermon. UPON Sunday, being the 9th of December, in the year 1599, the keeper came and called all the catholic prisoners down from their cham

bers, and told them they must go to the hall, before my lord and the council. They all went with him, and when they came into the hall, they were placed within the rails before the council, being set there without the president. There gathered in a great number of people, and then were all the doors of the hall shut up, and presently after, Mr. Palmer, chancellor of St. Peter's church, in York, and a great preacher, began a prayer, and afterwards took his text out of the 24th psalm, and fell to talking The prisoners were astonished at the strangeness of this matter, and the place admitting of no consultation,) they knew not what to do.

After a while, all being quiet, the doors were set open; and Mr. Stillington rose up and went down, and one Mr. Robert Hallely went after him, and they proffered to go forth of the doors, but the keeper shut them again, and then they returned to the rest of their company. When the sermon was ended, Mr. Stillington went to the council, and said, the keeper had deceived them, for he told them of no sermon, but that they must all appear there, before my lord. He said farther that he was very loth to offend them, but yet in discharge of his conscience, he must let them know, that he would not hear their sermons. One of the council asked him, if he would there make a protestation ? and whether he spoke for himself or for all his company? He answered, that he spoke of himself; and then all the rest of the company cried, that they were all of the same mind with him. The preacher also turned towards him, and said, he had spoken nothing but the truth. Mr. Stillington replied, that he had spoken falsely, and that he himself, could show the same. Here the prisoners began to take heart to them, which the council perceiving, grew very angry with Mr. Stillington, and broke up all further talk and departed.

CHAP. III.—The prisoners' behaviour and speeches at the second sermon. Upon Sunday following, being the 16th of December, the keeper called them all down, and would have had them all to the hall, as he did the other day, but they all refused to go with him; and then he caused his servants, and other fellows, to take them, one by one, and draw them to the hall; and straight after, came my lord and the council.

After they were set upon the bench, Sir George Rains, (an old priest there amongst them,) rose up, and went towards my lord, and all the company followed after him, and they all made suit to his lordship, to give them leave to depart, for that it was against their conscience to hear their sermons ; and, if he thought they suffered not enough for their conscience's sake, to impose what more as pleased him. His lordship stood up and spoke very sharply unto them, and, in a manner of an oration, told them, that the state had long borne with them, and that they had been long invited by fair means; that they had also been urged by punishments; all which failing, he would, at last, according to the parable in St. Luke's gospel, compel them to hear the word.-(c. xiv.) He also spoke much of the disobedience of catholics, and omitted not to touch the ordinary faults objected against them, also of their imprisonment and suffering, and made it a light thing, and said, that they lived

there very pleasantly, and under that colour increased their wealth, and that they were as well there, in prison, as at Stevenson's ordinary, in the city.

When his lordship had ended, and they put out of all hope in this manner, they all turned away, and went forth to the place, with as much haste as they could, but it availed them nothing, for the keeper's and my lord's men, hauled them in again, with greater rigour than before. Then fell they of murmuring and making a noise, some in one manner, and some in another, to interrupt the preacher. My lord stood up again, and commanded silence; and presently the preacher began the sermon upon the same text he handled the day before, thinking to repair his credit, by showing, that Eutyches was a favourite of Apollinaris's heresy, as though he might be baptised in that heresy.

When the sermon was ended, Mr. Stillington went to my lord, and Mr. Middleton went with him, and all the rest of the company followed. He desired his honour to consider of them, that they were men, and that it is meet they were suffered to be their own guides : it was strange, and very grievous unto them, to be forced against their wills and consciences. And to this effect, he urged my lord earnestly. Mr. Middleton, in the mean space, spoke unto Mr. Heskett, one of the council, and said, sir, you know the law, speak, I beseech you, if it be not against the laws of the realm to use us thus, being punished otherwise for our refusal of going to church? But Mr. Heskett would give him no answer to his demand.

The prisoners complained, that day, of injury for being so hauled against their consciences, and my lord himself answered them, and told them, (as the council had done the day before,) that he knew well enough that it was against their will to be present at their sermons, and that it could be no sin in them, for the fault that was, if there were any offence, was bis, and he would take it to himself, and therefore solemnly there desired of Almighty God, that all the blame of their proceeding might be laid to his charge, and upon him, and his house.

It the week following, the prisoners made a petition to his lordship, to have performance of his promise, and named, for their deputies, D. Bagshaw, Mr. Thomas Wright, and Mr. Fiizherbert, who, as they heard, was at London, in prison, or any one of them, but his honour's purpose was altered by the preachers, or by the council, at their persuasions, as you shall see in the week following.

CHAP. VI.— The fourth sermon, preached by Mr. Fuller, the ford president's

chaplain. This day the prisoners made more resistance for being drawn to the hall, than before they had done; which turned much more to their hurt. For the jailor's men crushed them against the wall, and, by forcibly striving, gave them many shrewd blows; the council being sat, Mr. Denby went unto them, and desired, that with their favour, he might depart; for he could not abide to hear either God blasphemed, or his conscience offended. They willed him to sit down and be quiet, but he

« AnteriorContinua »