« AnteriorContinua »
The day before his death he wrote the following letter to the Rev. Mr. John Woodward, his uncle:
'Absit ut gloriemur nisi in cruce Domini Jesu Christi, &c.
• My dearest Uncle;
• After many conflicts, mixed with spiritual consolations and Christian comforts, it hath pleased God, of his infinite mercy, to call me out of this vale of misery. To him, therefore, for all liis benefits at all times and forever, be all praise and glory.
Your tender care always had over me, and cost bestowed on me, I trust, in heaven shall be rewarded. My prayers you have still had, and that was but duty; other tokens of a grateful mind I could not show, by reason of my restrained necessity.
• This very morning, which is the festival of St. Andrew, I was advertised by superior autliority, that to-morrow, I was to end the course of this life: God grant that I may do it to the imitation of this noble apostle and servant of God, and that with joy I may say, rising off the hurdle, salve sancta crux, Soc.
• Innocency is my only comfort against all the forged villainy which is fathered on my fellow priests and me. Well, when by the 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, and if it be his blessed will to convert our persecutors, that they may become professors of his truth.
•Prayers for my soul procure for me, my loving patron : and so, having great need to prepare myself for God, never quieter in mind, nor less troubled towards God, binding all my iniquities up in his precious wounds, I bid you farewell ; yea, and once again, the lovingest uncle that ever kinsman had in this world, farewell.
God grant us both his grace and blessing until the end, that living in his fear, and dying in his favour, we may enjoy one the other for ever. Salute all my fellow catholics. And so, without farther troubling of you, my sweetest benefactor, farewell. On St. Andrew's day, 1581. Your nephew,
RALPH SHERWINE, Priest.
After Mr. Campion was executed, and the butchery finished, the hangman, taking hold of Mr. Sherwine with his hands all bloody, said to him, thinking to terrify him, come, Sherwine, take thou also thy wages. But the holy man, nothing dismayed, embraced him with a cheerful countenance, and reverently kissed the blood that stuck to his hands; at which the people were very much moved. "Then getting into the cart, he employed some time in prayer and contemplation, having his eyes shut and his hands listed up to heaven. After which, he asked if the people looked for any speech from him ? Many of the people, and some also of the more honourable sort, answering yes, he began, with a manly courage, and a loud voice, first to render thanks to
each of the three persons of the eternal trinity for the mercies and blessings bestowed upon him; and then was going on to give an account of his faith, when Sir Francis Knowles interrupted him, and bid him confess his treason against the queen. Mr. Sherwine, with great constancy, replied, I am innocent of any such crime. And when he was still farther pressed to acknowledge himself guilty, he said, I have no occasion to tell a lie; it is a case where my soul is at stake; and so still persisted to maintain his innocence, adding, that although in this short time of mortal life he was to undergo the infamy and punishment of a traitor, he made no doubt of his future happiness, through Jesus Christ, in whose death, passion, and blood, he only trusted.
• Then he made a sweet prayer to our Lord Jesus, acknowledging the imperfection, misery, and sinful wretchedness of his own nalure, still protesting his innocence from all treasons and traitorous practices; and that his going out of this realm beyond the seas, was only for his soul's health, to learn to save his soul. And being again tempted by Sir Francis Knowles, he answered in this wise ; Tush, lush, you
and I shall answer this before another Judge, where my innocence shall be known, and you will see that I am guiltless of this. Whereupon Sir Francis said, we know you are no contriver or doer of this treason, for you are no man of arms; but you are a traitor by consequence. But Mr. Sherwine boldly answered, if to be a catholic only, is to be a perfect catholic, be to be a traitor, then am I a traitor.
"After which words, being by authority debarred of any farther speech, he said, I forgive all who either by general presumption, or particular error, have procured my death : and so devoutly prayed to his Saviour Jesus. After which prayer, he was pressed to speak his opinion touching pope Pius his bull: to which point he gave no answer. Then being willed to pray for the queen, he answered, I have and do. At which words the Lord Howard again asked, which queen he meant? whether Elizabeth, queen? To whom, somewhat smiling, he said, yea for Elizabeth, queen, I now at this instant pray my Lord God to make her his servant in this life, and after this life, co-heir with Jesus Christ.
• When he had thus prayed, there was some that said openly, that he meant to make her a papist; to whom he openly replied, God forbid otherwise : and so recollecting himself in prayer, he died patiently, constantly, and mildly, crying, Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, be to me a Jesus.'
ALEXANDER BRIAN, PRIEST.*
He was born in Dorsetshire, and studied for a while in Hart Hall, Oxford; but not liking the religion of the times, he left both the university and the kingdom, and went over to Douay, to the English college or seminary there, anno 1576. Here, and at Rhemes, he prosecuted his studies ; and being ordained priest, was sent back upon the
* From a printed account by an eye-witness of his death : published in 1582.
English mission, in 1579. Where, before his apprehension, he reconciled to the church an ancient gentlemen, father to Robert Parsons, S. J.
• About the 28th of April, 1581, he was apprehended in his chamber at midnight, by Norton; his chamber was rifled, and three pounds, in money, taken from him (for that is a principal verb, says my author, in all apprehensions of catholics) his apparel and other things, especially a trunk, wherein was a silver chalice, and much other good stuff, which was not his, but committed to his custody, was taken away also, and he sent close prisoner to the Counter, with commandment to stop all that asked for him ; and that he should have neither meat nor drink ; who in such order continued till he was almost samished. At last, by friendship, or by what means I know not, he got a pennyworth of hard cheese, and a little broken bread, with a pint of strong beer, which brought him into such an extreme thirst, that he essayed to catch with his hat the drops of rain from the house eaves, but could not reach them.
• The morrow after the ascension day, he was removed to the Tower, where he verily thought he should have been utterly famished, and therefore carried with him a little piece of his hard cheese, which his keeper, in searching him, found about him : but Mr. Brian humbly entreated him not to take it from him. Within two days after his coming to the Tower, he was brough before the lieutenant, Dr. Hammond, and Mr. Norton, who examined him after their common manner, first tendering an oath to answer to all, &c. And because he would not confess where he had seen father Parsons, how he was maintained, where he had said mass, and whose confessions he had heard, they caused needles to be thrust under his nails ; whereat Mr. Brian was not moved at all, but with a constant mind and pleasant countenance, said the psalm, Miserere, desiring God to forgive his tormentors; whereat Dr. Hammond stamped and stared, as a man half beside himself, saying, what a thing is this ? if a man were not settled in his religion, this were enough to convert him.
• After this he was, even to the disjointing of his body, rent and torn upon the rack, because he would not confess where father Parsons was, where the print was, and what books he had sold, and so was returned to his lodgings for that time ; yet the next day following, notwithstanding the great distemperature and soreness of his whole body, his senses being dead, and his blood congealed, he was brought to the torture again, and there stretched with greater severity than before ; insomuch, that supposing with himself they would pluck him to pieces, he put on the armour of patience, resolving to die, rather than to hurt any creature living; and having his mind raised in contemplation of Chirst's bitter passion. At his racking, he swooned away, so that they were fain to sprinkle cold water on his face to revive him again ; yet they released no part of his pain.
And here, Norton, because they could get nothing of him, asked him, whether the queen were supreme head of the church of England, or not? To this he said—I am a catholic, and I believe in this as a catholic should do. Why, said Norton, they say the pope is ; and so say I, answered Mr. Brian. Here also the lieutenant used railing and
reviling words and slapped him on the cheeks, after an uncharitable manner: and all the commissioners rose up and went away, giving commandment to leave him so all night; at which, when they saw he was nothing moved, they ordered he should be taken from the torment, and sent him again to Walesboure ; where, not able to move hand or foot, or any part of his body, he lay, in his clothes, fifteen days together, without bedding, in great pain and anguish.
• These torments, and the man's constancy, are comparable truly to the old sufferings of the renowned martyrs of the primitive church, which he could never have borne by human strength, if God had not given his singular and supernatural grace. Himself confessed, that by a vow he made, and other special exercises, he had great consolation in all these vexations ; whereof I will set down his own words, in an epistle that he wrote to the fathers of the society in England ;' "where, after having acquainted them with a vow he had made, that if God should be pleased to deliver him, he would enter into their society within one year next ensuing. He writes thus :” • The same day that I was first tormented on the rack, before I came to the place, giving my mind to prayer, and commending myself and all mine to our Lord, I was replenished and filled up with a kind of supernatural sweetness of spirit: and even while I was calling upon the most holy name of Jesus, and upon the blessed virgin Mary, (for I was saying the rosary) my mind was cheerfully disposed, well comforted, and readily prepared and bent to suffer and endure those torments, which even then I most certainly looked for, &c. Whether this, that I will say, be miraculous or no, God, he knoweth ; but true it is, and thereof my conscience is a witness before God. And this I say, that in the end of the torture, though my hands and feet were violently stretched and racked, and my adversaries fulfilled their wicked lust in practising their cruel tyranny upon my body, yet, notwithstanding, I was without sense and feeling, well nigh of all grief and pain ; and not so only, but, as it were, comforted, eased, and refreshed of the griefs of the torture by-past. I continued still with perfect and present senses in quietness of heart and tranquility of mind. Which thing, when the commissioners did see, they departed, and in going forth of the door, they gave orders to rack me again the next day following, after the same sort. Now when I heard them say so, it gave me in my mind, by and by, and I did verily believe and trust that, with the help of God, I should be able to bear and suffer it patiently. In the mean time, as well as I could, I did muse and meditate upon the most bitter passion of our Saviour, and how full of innumerable pains it was. And whilst I was thus occupied, methought my left hand was wounded in the palm, and that I felt the blood run out: but in very deed there was no such thing, nor any other pain than that which seemed to be in my hand.' So far Mr. Brian.
• When he went to Westminster-hall to be condemned, he made a cross of such wood as he could get, which he carried with him openly; he made shift also to shave his crown, because he would signify to the ministers (who, at his apprehension, had scofled and mocked him, saying that he was ashamed of his vocation) that he was not ashamed of his holy orders, nor yet that he would blush at his religion. When
he was condemned, irons were commanded to be put upon him and the rest, and they were never taken off till they were fetched forth to be martyred.'
After Mr. Campion and Mr. Sherwine had finished their course, Mr. Brian was ordered up into the cart. •Being there prepared to death, he began first to declare his bringing up in the catholic faith and religion, and his being in Oxford ; upon which word he was cut short by one, saying, what have we to do with Oxford ? come to thy purpose, and confess thy treason : whereupon he answered—I am not guilty of any such thing; I was never at Rome nor at Rhemes at that time when Dr. Saunders came into Ireland,' " the time of the pretended conspiracy.” . To this end he spoke and protested, as he would answer before God.
• He spake not much, but whereas he was urged more than the other two, to speak what he thonght of the bull of Pius Quintus, he said, He did believe of it, as all catholics did, and the catholic faith doth ; and thereupon protesting himself to die a true catholic, as he was saying Miserere mei Deus, he was delivered of the cart, with more pain, by negligence of the hangman, than either of the others; who, after his beheading, being dismembered, his heart, bowels, and entrails burned, to the great admiration of some, being laid upon the block, his belly ni downwards, lifted up his whole body, then remaining, from the ground. i And this I add upon report of others, not my own sight.'
Mr. Brian was but twenty-eight years old when he suffered. My author gives his character in short, in these words : • He was a man not unlearned ; of a very sweet grace in preaching, and of an exceeding great zeal, patience, constancy, and humility.'
Mr. Stow, in his chronicle of this year, makes mention of the execution of Mr. Campion, Mr. Sherwine, and Mr. Brian. •The first of December, says he, Edmund Campion, jesuit, Ralph Sherwine, and Alexander Brian, seminary priests, were drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn, and there hanged, bowelled, and quartered.
The learned and truly pious father Lewis, of Grenada, in the abridgment of his catechism, chap. 23, makes a very honourable mention of father Campion, Mr. Sherwine and Mr. Brian, as illustrious martyrs, with an account of their deaths, agreeable to what has been set down above.
N. B. Mr. Brian, as appears from his letter, recorded by Dr. Bridgewater, in his Concertatio, desired, before his death, to be received into the society of Jesus, and it seems his request was granted him by the fathers of the society, who always give him a place amongst their martyrs.
JOHN PAINE, PRIEST.-1582. *
He was born in Northamptonshire. In what college he was educated, in either of our universities at home, I have not found : But he
From a printed account, by an eye-witness of his death, published in 1582, and from the diary of Douay college.