Imatges de pàgina

best families of that country; but leaving home, he went beyond sea, and became a student in the college then residing at Rhemes. Here, in a short time, he made a great progress in virtue, and such was hie zeal of souls, that he was very desirous, even before he had finished the usual course of his divinity studies, to run to the succour of numbers in his country, perishing through error and vice. He was made priest, and sent upon the mission in 1585. He chose his own country for the seat of his labours, and there, for several years, in the midst of difficulties and dangers, sought after the lost sheep, and brought many of them back to his Lord's fold; till, about the 20th of March, 1591-2, going to Holyhead, to procure a passage for four young men into Ireland, who from thence desired to go over into Spain, to the college of Valladolid, both he and his companions were taken up upon suspicion, at the instance of one Mr. Folk, a great enemy of the catholics. They passed that first night in the hands of the dregs of the people, who entertained them all the night with scoffs and injuries; but the next morning they were hurried away to Beaumaris, which is the county town of Anglesey. Here they were all five examined.

1st. If they had any Agnus Dei's, or blessed medals, or pope's bulls, or if they had received any letters from the English seminaries abroad? They answered, No. They were asked, if they would swear it upon the bible? they answered, they would not; for they thought their word was enough.

2dly. They were asked where they were going? They answered, To Ireland.

3dly. They were asked if they would go to church, or take the oath of supremacy? They absolutely refused to do either. And so this day's work ended, after they had treated them with many injurious words and reproaches. The next day they were again brought before the magistrates, and examined more rigorously. And then Mr. Davies frankly confessed, that he was a priest of the seminary of Rhemes, and that he had returned home to administer the sacraments to his brethren, the catholics of this kingdom, and to bring back as many protestants as he could to the true catholic religion. They urged him much to tell them with whom he had lived all the time he had been in England; but he absolutely refused, whatever efforts they made, to give them any answer, to such questions as these, which might be of bad consequence to others.

Upon this confession, Mr. Davies was separated from his companions, and cast into a dark, stinking dungeon, between two walls of the castle of Beaumaris, where he was not suffered to see or speak with any one, till after about a month's time, his virtue and patience had gained so far upon the jailor, as to permit him, for about one hour in a day, viz: between eight and nine in the morning, to come out of his dungeon to breathe a better air, and to converse with his companions, who were kept prisoners in another part of the castle. They then found the means privately to procure a vestment, and other necessaries, to say mass, which Mr. Davies celebrated every day, and afterwards punctually returned to his dungeon to give God thanks, and there entertained himself with his Saviour. The jailor, by degrees, was still more indulgent insomuch, that Mr. Davies and his companions wanted not opportunities of making their escape out of the castle; but they would not requite the jailor's kindness by exposing him to the danger of falling under any inconveniences on their account.

Whilst Mr. Davies was confined in the castle of Beaumaris, many, attracted by the reputation of his sanctity, had recourse to him from twenty, thirty, or forty miles round, some for counsel in their doubts, and comfort in their affliction, others to confess their sins, and treat with him of the salvation of their souls; and those who could not come in person, consulted him by letters: and it is not to be expressed how much the cause of religion and piety was thus, in a short time, advanced in all that neighbourhood; insomuch, that whereas before, there was scarce one to be found in those parts, who openly professed himself a catholic, there were now a great many, in spite of the ministers, who frequently came to the castle to dispute with Mr. Davies; amongst whom was one Mr. Burgess, a noted preacher, who brought with him two sacks of books; but gained nothing by the conference but his own confusion.

When the assizes came, Mr. Davies and his four companions were all brought to the bar; and he was arraigned of high treason, for having been made priest beyond the seas by Roman authority, and returning into this kingdom; and his companions of felony, for having been found in his company. The jury found them all guilty of their respective indictments; upon which, instead of being any ways dismayed, Mr. Davies began, with a joyful voice, the hymn te Deum, and his companions joined with him in the thanksgiving, till the officers of justice prohibited them to proceed. In the mean time, the people murmured aloud at the injustice of the verdict, till the judge, to appease them, told them, that as to the priest, nothing could be said to excuse him from the sentence of death: but as to the four youths who were taken in his company, he thought the jury had stretched the point too far, to bring them in guilty of felony, since it had not been made to appear in the trial, that they knew him to be a priest: and therefore they should be all five sent back to prison, till the queen and her council had been informed of the case, and should signify their pleasure what should be done with them.

Not long after this, Mr. Davies was ordered from Beaumaris to Ludlow, where, at that time, the council of the Marches of Wales resided: here the most learned ministers of that country were employed to confer with him, and the president of the council neglected no means of bringing him to conformity; and once, under pretence of a disputation to be held with the ministers, led him to church in the afternoon, and caused the common prayer service to be read there, that Mr. Davies might seem to countenance it by his presence. The confessor perceiving the artifice, would have gone out immediately, but the door was ■hut upon him, and he was kept there by force. Upon which, he began to recite, with a loud voice, the vespers of the Roman breviary, so that the minister could not be heard, and all was confusion. And when all was over, to prevent the scandal that might be taken from his having been there, he publicly declared, in the hearing of all the peopie, calling God and his holy angels to witness, That he had been t. brought thither by a stratagem, and kept by force; and that he would rather die a thousand deaths, than willingly communicate in an heretical t i service.—The president told him he was a madman for refusing to purchase his life and liberty at so easy a rate as that of acquiescing to their • liturgy; and so, with injuries and reproaches, sent him back to prison.

From Ludlow he was sent, bound, to Beudley, making the journey in three days, in company with a malefactor, who was ordered to the prison there. Here Mr. Davies was no sooner arrived, but, sick and weary as he was, he was thrust down into a dungeon, amongst felons that lay under sentence of death, so closely penned up together, that they had no room to stir; nor any other convenience to lie down to rest on, or even to sit on, than a sort of a stone seat, two feet high, which the malefactors very civilly offered Mr. Davies to sit on in the day, and sleep on at night. But his chief suffering here, was from the insupportable stench of the place, the prisoners being obliged to do all their necessities in that close place. From Beudley, he was shifted again to other prisons, till, at length, he was ordered back again to Beaumaris castle, to his own great satisfaction, who had made it his prayer to God, as he told his companions, that if his divine Majesty was pleased to do him that honour, of which he acknowledged himself infinitely unworthy, to shed his blood for his faith, it might be in that place, where no one had suffered before; and where the catholic religion was so little known, and in a manner quite forgot.

The resolution of sending back Mr. Davies to Beaumaris, coming to the knowledge of some catholic gentlemen, they formed the design of rescuing him on the way, out of the hands of the officers of justice, and setting him at liberty: but having imparted their design to him, he would, by no means, consent to it, assuring them withal, That were they to come to rescue him, he would not go along with them; such was his desire of suffering for Christ. And this plainly appeared, by what happened the night he was brought to Beaumaris; when the officers having lost their way in the dark, and giving him an opportunity of escaping, he would not make use of it; but being himself well acquainted with the country, served them as a guide, till they came to the castle.

Here Mr. Davies found his four companions, who were overjoyed to see him again; and with them he formed a kind of religious community in the prison, observing from this time, till his death, the following order or regulation of life: they all rose at four in the morning, and then employed one hour in mental prayer; they recited together the hours of the divine office ; and Mr. Davies every day said mass to them, with great devotion, and many tears, which though he strove to conceal, he was not able, his heart being brim-full of divine consolations on these occasions. After mass and thanksgiving, they sung together the anthem O Sacrttm Convivium, and then applied themselves to reading and studying, and Mr. Davies to his prayer. At their meals, the holy man taught them, both by word and example, to practice self-denial, by abstaining from what they had the most inclination to. After their meals, they employed half an hour in reading in the Imitation of Christ, and other spiritual books. After which, Mr. Davies entertained them for a while with pious and edifying discourses, upon the subject of their spiritual lecture, or the lives of the saints, or the devotions that he had seen abroad, in catholic countries, &c. Then they recited together the litanies of the blessed virgin; and the remainder of the afternoon and evening, they spent in their studies, and in reciting their rosary; and Mr. Davies in mental prayer, and in treating with those that came to him about the concerns of their souls. At night, they recited together, the litany of the saints, and made their examination of consciences, and so went to rest. Twice in the week they confessed, and they communicated on all Sundays and holidays. And thus they spent the last six months, after Mr. Davies's return to Beaumaris, with so much comfort to their souls, that they seemed to be rather in heaven, than in a prison. Whilst the holy confessor, not contented, with the hardships and mortifications incident to imprisonment, wore all the while, night and day, a rough penitential hair shirt, woven like a net, which he concealed a long time; but, a little before his death, privately gave, as a token of his love, to one of his companions.

And now, the time was come, when God was pleased to crown his servant: for the judges coming again upon their circuit, to hold the assizes at Beaumaris, for the county of Anglesey, in 1593, had instructions from court to proceed against Mr. Davies, as in cases of high treason. In consequence of these instructions, he was brought to the bar, and received sentence of death, in the usual form. After which, the judges extolled to him the queen's clemency, and assured him, that he might not only save his life, but also look for encouragement and promotion, if he would but consent to go once to the protestant church; but neither the fear of a most cruel death, nor any worldly hopes, had any influence upon a soul that was fixed in God, as was that of Mr. Davies; who, with a loud voice and cheerful countenance, blessed the Lord that he was now to be so happy, as to shed his blood for the love of his divine Majesty.

Some days passed, before the sentence could be put in execution ; for the people of Beaumaris had conceived so great an opinion of the sanctity of Mr. Davies, and so great a veneration for him, that not a man in the town would furnish, for love or money, any thing necessary for that purpose, such as ladder, rope, cauldron, wood, &c., much less, could any one be found there, who could be prevailed upon to do the hangman's office; so that the sheriff was obliged to hire two fellows from a distant place, to undertake the business, that if one failed, the other might perform the office; who, though at their coming to Beaumaris, they strove to conceal the design of their coming, yet being suspected by the people, were shut out from every house they came at, and were pelted with stones by the boys in the streets. In the mean time, some of the gentlemen of that county, made a fresh proffer to Mr. Davies, to rescue him out of the hands of the sheriff and his men, by force, on the morning designed for his execution; but he earnestly entreated them, for the love of Jesus Christ, not to think of any such enterprise, which would expose themselves to so great a danger, and do him no service.

On the 21st of July, in the morning, the prisoner was brought out to the hurdle, in order for execution; and passing before the window, where his companions stood, to take their last farewell of him, turning towards them, with a cheerful smile on his countenauce, gave them his last benediction, which, they received on their knees, shedding many tears; for which, he rebuked them, as being altogether unseasonable, since he was going to be delivered from all his sufferings, and to enter into the joy of his Lord. When he was arrived at the place of execution, being taken off the hurdle, he mounted the ladder, and making the sign of the cross, began to speak to the people, who, with their heads uncovered, attended to his words; but the sheriff would not suffer him to go forward, but told him, he did not come there to preach, but to die; and, therefore, bid him prepare for death. The confessor obeyed, and having made a short profession of his faith, and declared, that the cause for which he died, was no other than his priestly character; prayed that his innocent blood, which he joyfully shed for his religion, might not cry to heaven for vengeance, but rather plead for mercy for that island; that it might once more be illustrated with the light of faith, which it had lost. Then taking the rope, he kissed it, and put it about his neck, saying, Thy yoke, O Lord, is sweet, and thy burthen is light. Then, having stood a while in silent prayer, with a serenity of countenance that was admired by all, he was turned off the ladder, and half hanged, and then cut down, dismembered, bowelled, and quartered. His clothes,'died in his blood, were purchased by his companions, and the hangman, not long after, for some crime, falling into the hands of justice, declared at the gallows, That, of all he had done in his life, nothing troubled his conscience so much as having embrued his hands in the blood of so holy a men; confessing, that God had justly, on that account, brought him to suffer a shameful death.

As to Mr. Fulk, who had caused Mr. Davies to be apprehended, of a rich man that he then was, in about a year's time he was obliged to sell all his substance, and became miserably poor, so as to have neither a farthing of money; nor credit with any one; and being despised by all, he privately withdrew, and was never heard of more. The constable also that apprehended Mr. Davies, was seized immediately with an inflammation in the great toe of his right foot, accompanied with most violent pains, which spread and communicated itself to all that side, till it reached his right hand, in spite of all the endeavours of physicians and surgeons, and corrupted the whole body, so as to yield a most loathsome stench, insupportable to himself, and to all that came near him. And in this manner he miserably expired.

One of Mr. Davie's companions, who was younger than the rest, was put into the hands of a country school-master, to be whipped into a conformity with the church by law established. But he found means to make his escape over into Ireland, where meeting with a young gentleman, formerly his school-fellow, and prevailing with him to be reconciled to the catholic church, they both went, not long after, over

« AnteriorContinua »