Imatges de pàgina
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omnibus, St. John ii. 27. For this reason, I suppose it was, that when with great humility he sent me his last speech to correct, he also writ me word, he would not at the place of execution make use of any other set form or method of prayer, than the Pater noster, Ave Maria, Credo, Miserere, In manus tuas Domine, &c., and for the rest, he would breathe forth his soul in such prayers and ejaculations as God Almighty should then inspire him withal. He continually endeavoured to improve and advance himself in the purity of divine love, and by consequence also in contrition for his sins past, of his deficiency in both which, this humble soul complained to me as the only thing that troubled him. This love had extinguished in him all fear of death, perfecta charitas, foras mittit timorem. A lover feareth not, but rejoiceth at the approach of the beloved. Hence the joy of our holy martyr seemed still to increase with his danger, and was fully accomplished by an assurance of death. The very night before he died, being now, as it were, at heart's ease, he went to bed at eleven o'clock, and slept quietly and soundly till four in the morning; at which time his man, who lay in the room with him, awaked him ; so little concern had he upon his spirit, or rather so much had the loveliness of the end beautified the horror of the passage to it. After he certainly knew God Almighty had chosen him to the crown and dignity of martyrdom, he continually studied how to divest himself of himself, and become more and more an entire pleasing and perfect holocaust: to which end, as he gave up his soul with all its faculties to the conduct of God; so, for God's sake, he resigned the care and disposal of his body to unworthy me, &c. But I neither can nor dare undertake to describe unto you, the sigual virtues of this blessed martyr. There appeared in him something beyond expression, something more than human : the most savage and hard-hearted people were mollified and attendered at his sight; many protestants, in my hearing, wished their souls in the same state with his : all believed him innocent, and he made catholics, even the most timorous, in love with death. When he was carried out of the press-yard to execution, he turned him about to our chamber windows, and with a pleasant aspect and elevated hands, gave us his benediction. How he composed himself, after he was taken from hence, you yourself can give a more exact account than I, &c.' So far father Corker, to whom the holy prelate applied himself for the affairs of his conscience whilst he was preparing for his exit, and who was consequently the best acquainted with his interior.

Archbishop Plunket was arraigned at the King's Bench-bar, May the 3d, 1681, but not brought to his trial till the 8th of June. He had been then a year and a half in prison : he was found guilty by the jury, upon the testimony of those perjured wretches that appeared against hini ; when he heard the verdict, he cried out Deo Gratias, God be thanked. The lord chief justice before he pronounced sentence, wished him to renounce his false religion, as he called it, against which he most bitterly inveighed, as ten times worse than paganism : but the prisoner knew better what his religion was than the judge; and gave his lordship to understand that he was not disposed to alter it upon any considerations. He added, "If I were a man that had no care of my

conscience, I might have saved my life ; for I was offered it by divers people here, if I would but confess my own guilt and accuse others : but, my lord, I had rather die ten thousand deaths than wrongfully accuse any body. And the time will come when your lordship will see what these witnesses are, that have come in against me. I do assure your lordship, if I were a man that had not good principles, I might easily have saved my own life; but I had rather die ten thousand deaths, than wrongfully to take away one farthing of an man's goods, one day of his liberty, or one minute of his life.' After he had said this, sentence was pronounced against him in the usual form, on the 15th of June.--After condemnation he writ the following letter to father Corker.

Dear Sir, "I am obliged to you for the favour and charity of the 20th, and for all your former benevolences; and whereas I cannot in this country remunerate you, with God's grace, I hope to be grateful in that kingdom, which is properly our country. And truly God gave me (though unworthy of it) that grace to have fortem animum mortis terrore carentem “a courage fearless of death.” I have many sins to answer for before the Supreme Judge of the high bench, where no false witnesses can have audience. But as for the bench yesterday, I am not guilty of any crime there objected to me; I would I could be so clear at the bench of the All-powerful. Ut ut sit, there is one comfort, that he cannot be deceived, because he is omniscious, and knows all secrets, even of hearts; and cannot deceive, because all goodness ; so that I may be sure of a fair trial, and will get time sufficient to call witnesses ; nay, the judge will bring them in a moment, if there will be need of any. You and your comrade's prayers will be powerful advocates at that bench. Here none are admitted for

Your affectionate friend, OLIVER PLUNKET. On the first day of July, 1681, he was drawn from Newgate to Ty. burn: on which occasion, the serenity of his countenance, the courage, cheerfulness, and piety with which he went to meet death, gave great edification to the spectators. At the place of execution he spoke as follows :

I have some few days past abided my trial at the King's Bench, and now, very soon, I must hold up my hand at the King of King's Bench, and appear before a Judge, who cannot be deceived by false witnesses, nor corrupted allegations, for he knoweth the secrets of hearts; Neither can he deceive any, or give an unjust sentence, or be misled by respect of persons. He being all goodness and a most just Judge, will infallibly decree an eternal reward for all good works, and condign punishment for the smallest transgressions against his commandments : which being a most certain and undoubted truth, it would be a wicked act, and contrary to my perpetual welfare, that I should now, by declaring any thing contrary to truth, commit a detestable sin, for which, within a very short time, I must receive sentence of everlasting damnation ; after which, there is no reprieve or hope of pardon. I will therefore confess the truth, without any equivocation, and make use of the words according to their accustomed signification; as

suring you moreover, that I am of that certain persuasion, that no power, not only upon earth, but also in heaven, can dispense with me, or give me leave to make a false protestation ; and I protest upon the word of a dying man, and as I hope for salvation at the hands of the supreme judge, that I will declare the naked truth with all candour and sincerity, and that my affairs may be better known to all the world.

'Tis to be observed, that I have been accused in Ireland of treason and præmunire; and that there I was arraigned and brought to my trial; but the prosecutors, (men of Aagitious and infamous lives,) perceiving that I had records and witnesses, who would evidently convince them, and clearly show my innocency and their wickedness, they voluntarily absented themselves, and came to this city to procure that I should be brought hither to my irial, (where the crimes objected were not committed,) where the jury did not know me, or the qualities of my accusers, and were not informed of several other circumstances conducing to a fair trial. Here, after six months' close imprisonment, or thereabouts, I was brought to the bar the 3d of May, and arraigned for a crime, for which I was before arraigned in Ireland ; a strange resolution, a rare fact, of which you will hardly find a precedent these five hundred years past: but whereas my witnesses and records were in Ireland, the lord chief justice gave me five weeks time to get them brought hither; but by reason of the uncertainty of the seas, of wind, and weather, and of the difficulty of getting copies of records, and bringing many witnesses from several counties in Ireland, and for many other impediments, (of which affidavit was made,) I could not at the end of five weeks get the records and witnesses brought hither : I therefore begged for twelve days more, that I might be in readiness for my trial, which the lord chief justice denied ; and so I was brought to my trial, and exposed, as it were with my hands tied, to these merciless perjurors, &c.

Then having numbered up the heads of the accusation against him, and refuted them by the most solemn protestations of his innocency, and by showing not only the improbability, but even the impossibility of his being guilty of what was laid to his charge, he goes on :

You see, therefore, what condition I am in, and you have heard what protestations I have made of innocency, and I hope you will believe the words of a dying man. And that you may be the more induced to give me credit, I assure you, that a great peer sent me notice, that he would save my life, if I would accuse others ; but I answered, that I never knew of any conspiracies in Ireland, but such as were publicly known out-laws, and that to save my life, I would not falsely accuse any, nor prejudice my own soul. Quid prodest homini, &c. 'To take away any man's life or goods wrongfully, ill becometh any christian, especially a man of my calling, being a clergyman of the catholic church, and also an unworthy prelate, which I do openly confess ; neither will I deny to have exercised in Ireland the functions of a catholic prelate, as long as there was any connivance or toleration; and by preaching, and teaching, and statutes, to have endeavoured to bring the clergy, (of which I had a care,) to a due comportment, according to their calling ; and though thereby I did but my duty, yet some, who would not amend,

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had a prejudice for me, and especially my accusers, to whom I did endeavour to do good, I mean the clergymen, (as for the four laymen, who appeared against me, I was never acquainted with them.) But you see how I am rewarded, and how, by false oaths, they have brought me to this untimely death ; which wicked act being a defect of persons, ought not to reflect upon the order of St. Francis, or upon the Roman catholic clergy, it being well known that there was a Judas amongst the twelve apostles, and a wicked man called Nicholas amongst the seven deacons : and even as one of the said c!eacons, viz. holy Stephen, did pray for those who stoned him to death, so do I for those who with perjuries spill my innocent blood, saying, as St. Stephen did, O Lord, lay not this sin to them. I do heartily forgive them, and also the judges, who (by denying me sufficient time to bring my records and wiinesses from Îreland,) did expose my life to evident danger. I do also forgive all those who had a hand in bringing me from Ireland to be tried here, where it was morally impossible for me to have a fair trial. I do finally forgive all who did concur directly or indirecily to take away my life ; and I ask forgiveness of all those whom I ever offended by thought, word, or deed. I beseech the all-powerful, that his Divine Majesty grant our king, queen, the duke of York, and all the royal family, health, long life, and all prosperity in this world, and in the next, everlasting felicity.

Now that I have showed sufficiently, (as I think,) how innocent I am of any plot or conspiracy; I would I were able, with the like truth, to clear myself of high crimes committed against the Divine Majesty's commandments, (often transgressed by me,) for which I am sorry with all my heart, and if I could or should live a thousand years, I have a firm resolution and a strong purpose, by your grace, O my God, never to offend you; and I beseech your Divine Majesty, by the merits of Christ, and by the intercession of his blessed mother, and all the holy angels and saints, to forgive me my sins, and to grant my soul eternal rest.

After he had ended his speech, he recited the psalm, miserere mei Deus, and other devout aspirations ; and his cap being drawn over his eyes, he continued recomniending his happy soul into the hands of his Saviour, till the cart was drawn away. He was suffered to hang till he expired, and then was cut down, and bowelled ; his heart and bowels were thrown into the fire, his body was begged of the king, and was interred, (all but the head, and arms to the elbows, which were disposed of elsewhere,) in the church-yard of St. Giles, in the fields, with a copper-plate on his breast, with the following inscription :

In this tomb resteth the body of the right reverend Oliver Plunket, archbishop of Armagh, and primate of Ireland, who in hatred of religion was accused of high treason by salse witnesses, and for the same condemned and executed at Tyburn, his heart and bowels being taken out, and cast into the fire. He suffered martyrdom with constancy, the 1st of July, 1681, in the reign of king Charles the second.

Four years after his body was taken up and found entire. It was sent abroad to Lambspring ; where Abbot Corker, 1693, erected over it a handsome monument, with this Latin inscription.

Reliquiæ sanctæ memoriæ Oliveri Plunket, archiepiscopi Armachani, Hiberniæ primatis, qui in odium catholicæ fidei laqueo suspensus, extractis visceribus et in ignem projectis, celebris martyr occubuit Londini, primo die Julij, (stylo veteri,) anno salutis, 1681.

I find no more catholic blood spilt in England for religion, during the three remaining years of king Charles's reign. For now the pretended popish plot was clearly discovered to be a mere sham, and to have been imposed upon the nation, in order to 'usher in a real conspiracy of some that called themselves true protestants ; concerning which, the reader may consult the history of the Rye-House Plot, written by a protestant prelate, Dr. Sprat, bishop of Rochester. However, the prisons still were crowded with catholics, as well priests as laity, till the latter end of this reign; even the lords that were kept prisoners in the tower, could not obtain to be bailed out, till 1683: in the mean time, the Lord Petre died prisoner in the tower, protesting to the last his innocency of all that had been laid to his charge.

As to the rest, we have not been able to give an account in these memoirs, of all the sufferings of catholics, either in this or the former persecutions: nor so much as to set down the names either of the priests, or laymen or women, that have endured imprisonment, banishment, loss of goods, and innumerable other vexations for their conscience: the number of such sufferers has been so great, that it would be an impossible task to record so much as their names : it may suffice to say, that few of that profession escaped feeling, (more or less,) the rage of the persecutors ; and that their constancy and patience in their sufferings, was little inferior to that of the most heroic sufferers of the primitive ages.

Since the foregoing sheets were printed, we have been informed of one priest more, sentenced to death for his character, in this latter part of king Charles the second's reign: and this was the reverend father Atwood, of the holy order of St. Dominick. He was reprieved, and as some say, taken off the hurdle, to his great grief. He died in peace, in 1704.

Since the accession of king James II. to the throne, thouglı from time to time the catholics have been exposed to some passing storms, yet by God's mercy the persecution has never raged so far as to come to blood. The most remarkable sufferer, on account of his priestly character, was the reverend father Panl, of St. Francis, alias Matthew Atkinson, O. S. F. He was a native of Yorkshire, and en'ered into the order of St. Francis, in the English convent at Douay, the 27th of December, 1673, being then seventeen years of age : he was sent upon the English mission, in 1687, where he was noted for his zeal of souls, and diligence in his pastoral functions, and brought many strayed sheep back to the fold of Christ, till being accused by a salse convert, of being a priest, he was condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and sent to Hurst castle, where he remained a constant and pious consessor of Christ for thirty years, till his dying day, which was the 15th of October, 1729. He departed this life aged 74, in the 56th year of his religious profession ; and lies interred at St. James's, near Winchester.

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