A View from the Tower of London: A Review of “Autobiography of a Hunted Priest” by Fr. John Gerard S.J.

Everywhere a hunt was being organised for Catholics and their houses searched; in every village and along all the roads and all along the roads and lanes very close watches were kept to catch them

PATHEOS:DECEMBER 10, 2012 BY PAT MCNAMARA

Read my Goodreads Review         Buy Autobiography of a Hunted Priest

There’s an undeniable mystique about 16th-century England, an era peopled with colourful characters like Henry VIII, epic events like the Armada, the adventures of Francis Drake on the Spanish Main, the Reformation, and the heroic stand of St. Thomas More. An exciting if overlooked tale of heroism is the work of the Jesuits to keep Catholicism alive in 16th-century England. Hundreds of Englishmen trained abroad, their religion outlawed, returned home to restore the “old faith,” facing certain death if caught. Many are listed today in the Roman martyrology.

For four decades, Ignatius Press has reclaimed many forgotten Catholic classics. One of these is Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, by Father John Gerard (1564-1637), an English Jesuit who spent eighteen years clandestinely ministering to his fellow countrymen. Born a Catholic in Derbyshire, young Gerard studied in Europe where he joined the Jesuit order. Founded in 1540, the Jesuits were the shock troops in the campaign to win Protestant Europe back to the Catholic faith.

Trained and ordained on the continent, Father Gerard secretly returned to England in the fall of 1588. Anti-Catholic hostility, exacerbated by the recent defeat of the Spanish Armada, was at a fever pitch: 

Everywhere a hunt was being organised for Catholics and their houses searched; in every village and along all the roads and all along the roads and lanes very close watches were kept to catch them.”

Catholics were forced to attend Protestant services or pay a fine. (Only the wealthy could afford to remain openly Catholic, although under intense pressure to convert.) Pope St. Pius V‘s 1570 bull Regnans in Excelsis exacerbated the situation by excommunicating Elizabeth and absolving her subjects from allegiance to her. Catholics were now seen as traitors to the realm. Jesuits were the subject of a special ire. Three years before Gerard’s return, they were banned from entering the country. They were political fugitives.

To stay above suspicion, Gerard cultivated a respectable public image. For six years he

the-priests-hole
Priest Hide at Harvington Hall

traveled through England, staying in the homes of wealthy Catholics, the safest place available. Here he posed as a visiting relative while secretly celebrating the sacraments. But even in these homes there was the risk of the “priest hunters” appearing. Some of the most heroic figures in Gerard’s book are the laypeople who kept the faith alive at great risk, harbouring clergy in secret passages known as “priest-holes.” (Gerard hid in one for four days with nothing but a biscuit for food.)

Betrayed by a servant, Gerard spent three years in prison. (All Catholics, he notes, lived in constant fear of betrayal.) Some of the book’s most interesting passages cover this period. He spent an entire month in chains doing the Spiritual Exercises (.pdf) of St. Ignatius Loyola from memory. He describes the many uses for an orange. From the peel he made a rosary, while using the juice to write letters legible only when heated (so the recipient would know if the letter had been intercepted). Sometimes he bribed the guards to look the other way while he celebrated Mass and conducted retreats for his fellow prisoners.

Through it all, he writes, he was entirely ready to “water the Lord’s vineyard” with his blood. For six months he stayed in the Tower of London, Elizabethan England‘s version of a maximum security prison. It was here that he underwent torture, an experience he describes in detail:

The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said that I would try them all. Then they asked me again whether I would confess. “I cannot,” I said.

On October 3, 1597, with the help of friends, Father Gerard escaped from the Tower of London. For the next eight years he continued his ministry among the English people before he was recalled to the continent to train Jesuits for the English Mission. He spent the rest of his life at The Venerable English College in Rome. Toward the end of his life, Gerard’s Jesuit superiors asked him to write a memoir of his work in England, which he did, in Latin. Translated into English in 1871, the present edition was re-translated by the English Jesuit historian Father Philip Caraman S.J.

In his preface to the new edition, Father James V. Schall S.J., a Jesuit at Georgetown University, calls it “an ecclesiastical adventure story with a rather happy ending.” At a time when Christianity is undergoing new persecutions worldwide, Father Schall notes, “It may, in fact, be a very up-to-date book in its own way.” If you’re looking for a good read, or if you’re looking for a great Christmas present to give someone, you can’t do better than this.

 

BOOK REVIEW: “HOW THE ANCIENT ROMAN RITE HAS CHANGED” BY REV. P. PIETRO LEONE

The latest book by The Reverend Father Don Pietro Leone, academic, Lecturer in Doctrine and Traditional Ritual, is directed at Pope Francis, although the topic is not dear to the heart of the recipient: Mass in Vetus Ordo. The author of Come è Cambiato il Rito Romano Antico, published by Solfanelli, has set himself the objective of evaluating the two rites, the new and the ancient in a scientific manner, by comparing them in light of their respective sacramental theologies.

The decree of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, published in July 2007 to liberalise the ancient Roman Rite, aroused a variety of reactions: some welcomed it with joy, in the hope that it would be applied as widely as possible; while others have labeled it as “something for the nostalgic”.   In this context, the Book aims to evaluate the two rites with scientific discipline: more precisely, to compare them in light of their respective sacramental theologies.  The book further aims to offer the reader a synthetic vision on the topic, concerning both the ordinary (or “common”) of the Mass, that is the parts that are common to all Masses, those parts that are proper to one Mass or another.  The first part of the essay analyses the common of the Mass, the second part analyses inter-alia the differences of each Mass.  This comparison of the two rites will allow us to evaluate them in the correct manner.


Available from our: Hermitage Bookshop:


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The latest book by The Reverend Father Don Pietro Leone, academic, Lecturer in Doctrine and Traditional Ritual, is directed at Pope Francis, although the topic is not dear to the heart of the recipient: Mass in Vetus Ordo. The author of Come è Cambiato il Rito Romano Antico, published by Solfanelli, has set himself the objective of evaluating the two rites, the new and the ancient in a scientific manner, by comparing them in light of their respective sacramental theologies.

This resulted in a text that does not seek controversy and, free from all hypocrisy or duplicity, highlights the objectivity and the truth of the facts. The sources, on the other hand, are of unquestionable theological and historical value. It is essentially a compendium, a summary on the two rites accessible to all more or less on the subject prepared readers. A close examination of each one emerges, as it is written in the preface, “that they are so different that we cannot accurately speak of two forms of the Roman rite, nor to two Roman Rituals; but rather of two distinct rites, the first Roman and the second non-Roman: it will show us that in creating the New Rite the ancient Rite was destroyed”.

Father Leone has no reservations and no fear in highlighting the Protestant character of the new rite, so, he rigorously proposes a confrontation that leaves avenue for open to deception or for sugar-coating the subject: “In fact, all that was suppressed was almost everything that was part of the true essence of the Mass, that is, its sacrificial nature.  It is therefore in this perspective that we will compare the theology of the two rites in the following subsections: §1 on the offertory, relating to the anticipation of the sacrifice; §2 on the canon, relating to making the presence of the sacrifice; §3 on the real Presence, relating to its object, that is Jesus Christ himself; §4 on the sacrificial priesthood, relating to the minister who has received the power to make the sacrifice, §5 on the purpose of the Mass, relating to the finality of the sacrifice; §6 on Latin, relating to the language that is suitable; §7 on the orientation of the celebrant, relating to the appropriate orientation; §8 on the altar and table relating to the altar of sacrifice; and §9 on intelligibility and participation, concerning their principal objective, that is, the sacrifice itself” (p.27).

One could not then miss the correct interpretation of the sacramental priesthood. Priests are presbyters and not the laity, while, with the new rite, the priests are aligned with the lay priesthood of the Protestants.

So we see the change very clearly: in the modern Mass all the verbal distinctions in the offertory and in the canon between the priest and the laity have been removed, with the exception of the “pray brothers” (or “Orate Frates”).

The double Confiteor and the double Communion have been replaced with a single Confiteor and a single Communion, where no clear distinction exists between the priests and the faithful (a term that has been substituted with “assembly” or “people”), while the formula of absolution has been removed, as it was removed by the Protestants in the sixteenth century.

The Council of Trent replied very sternly to Luther and to all the Protestants for the heresy that arose from this with On The Sacrifice of the Mass: Canon I. — “If any one saith, that in the mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.” (pp. 49-50)..

Therefore the purpose of the Mass is not simply for praise or adoration and thanksgiving, but it is also an expiation and supplication.  This statement is as true as it is eternal and is the answer not only to the Protestant repudiation that the Mass is a sacrifice and, as such, atoning appealing in nature, but also a response to the new Mass endorsed by Paolo VI and Annibale Bugnini, who as early as the pontificate of Pio XII, began to, with his collaborators in the Liturgical Commission to meet with the separated brethren.

Too bad that those brothers with their errors have affected the revolutionaries within the Church, poisoning a rite that has become directed more at mankind rather than a worship directed toward God.

However, the Vetus Ordo, thanks to the Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI of 7 July 2007, continues to reaffirm a response to the growing interest for both the priests who apply it, and for the faithful who assist him and where the young are of great importance.

The author’s supernatural vision, which is expressed when he asserts that God has allowed so much liturgical degradation as a possible “severe punishment to the Church for the harm with the most extreme severity” (p. 131) with an appropriate similarity between the punishments to mankind as suffered during the twentieth century and foretold by Our Lady of Fatima, it does nothing but add value to this work of nonfiction, having value of a spiritual character.

Related to this book of great interest and usefulness, is the release of an analysis by Abbé Claude Barthe, theologian, defender and populariser of the “genius” of the traditional Roman liturgy, entitled Storia del Messale Tridentino, translated from French into Italian by Carlotta Anna Pallottino Luyt and published again by Solfanelli. [I have been unable to find a translation in English at this time]

The text is intended for all those who wish to understand how the product which is studied by a few, or rather that the Novus ordo, is nothing more than a consequence of a matured mentality, over a period of four centuries (ie from the promulgation of the Missal of the Council of Trent, which took place July 14, 1570, to the first edition of the missal of Vatican Council II, published March 26, 1970), during which the enemies of the Church operated with an invasive and systematic strategy.

The liturgical work carried out by the Council of Trent sanctioned the results of the medieval stabilisation of the Roman cult.  The reception of this Council, during these four hundred years, has been accompanied by an evolution of Catholicism, and the evolution that demarcated it – thanks to the burrowing actions of the opponents of Catholicism – in an increasingly incisive and firm way from Tradition, until we reach our chaotic and heretical times.

The liturgy of this Catholicism of the Counter-Reformation was celebrated from Pius V to John XXIII, up to the explosive threshold of a contemporary crisis.  I have chosen to focus the study in a particular way on this period, since in it there has been an assimilation of all the anterior liturgical stratifications, essentially following the Carolingian romanisation and the centralisation process realised by the Gregorian reform.  This retrospective is characterised by the fatal tendency to favour the author’s French point of view, which can indeed find an objective justification because of the important role that the Churches of France have participate in over this period in history of the Roman cult” (pp. 5-6).

Scrutinising the history of the Roman Missal is to understand the doctrinal, theological, liturgical and sacred a heritage that has been built, brick by brick, until we reach the formation of the Tridentine Missal.

Not, therefore, a handful of revolutionary men who idealised an alternative, as happened with the Novus Ordo, but a Pope, St. Pius V, who regularised and unified the Catholic liturgy in the world.  Commencing in the High Middle Ages, it has acquired a relevance, not equal to that of the Bible, but, on closer inspection, comparable and complementary, such as to give sacred character to the missal and vice versa.  To this we must add an intrinsic osmosis of the liturgical texts and ceremonies with the teachings of the magisterium.  Osmosis much greater than that, however still very strong, of the rights of the Church with the same teachings”(p.5).

So as to understand better lets give an example: the Carolingians accentuated the Romanisation of the liturgy of Gaul with a view of political and religious unification of their territories, but also to ensure the spread of Roman Catholicism in defence of religious orthodoxy.

The increasing use of the Roman liturgy as it was celebrated in Rome, as did the Franciscans of the thirteenth century, was achieved through the dissemination of the liturgical books of the Roman Curia and adopted by them.  The importance of the Missal and the Breviary, but also the pontifical of the Roman Curia, augmented by the invention of the printing press and the Counter-Reformation.

Thus the, violent Protestant attacks against the “papist” Masses and on the other hand, the doctrinal work of the Council of Trent (particularly in sessions XIII and XXII) have conferred on the Mass of the Curia added a truly Roman value.  It becomes, more evidently, a beacon of the Catholic Profession of faith as conveyed by tradition”.  A tradition that is so betrayed today, violated with inconceivable and sacrilegious abuses, abuses that find their matrix in the Lutheran denial of transubstantiation.