Catholic persecution is not a new thing

 

 

 

The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest by John Gerard, S.J.

I saw this book in the Mustard Seed Bookshop catagalogue.

I can’t do much better than quote their review:

Truth is stranger than fiction. And nowhere in literature is it so apparent as in this classic work, The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest. This autobiography of a Jesuit priest in Elizabethan England is a most remarkable document and John Gerard, its author, a most remarkable priest in a time when to be a Catholic in England courted imprisonment and torture; to be a priest was treason by act of Parliament.

Smuggled into England after his ordination and dumped on a Norfolk beach at night, Fr. Gerard disguised himself as a country gentleman and traveled about the country saying Mass, preaching and ministering to the faithful in secret – always in constant danger. The houses in which he found shelter were frequently raided by “priest hunters”; priest-holes, hide-outs and hair-breadth escapes were part of his daily life. He was finally caught and imprisoned, and later removed to the infamous Tower of London where he was brutally tortured.

The stirring account of his escape, by means of a rope thrown across the moat, is a daring and magnificent climax to a true story which, for sheer narrative power and interest, far exceeds any fiction. Here is an accurate and compelling picture of England when Catholics were denied their freedom to worship and endured vicious persecution and often martyrdom.

But more than the story of a single priest, The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest epitomises the constant struggle of all human beings through the ages to maintain their freedom. It is a book of courage and of conviction whose message is most timely for our age.

If you think we have it hard today, try being a Catholic in England in the 1600’s.  Whoa.  As a woman, I would have had the choice of being crushed to death by a door with weights slowly being added until I died, or escaping to another country.  It was pretty grim for everyone, but the zeal and the faith of those who did remain faithful would put us to shame today.  They really did believe the truths of the faith and had deep, personal relationships with God.  You would not have been able to survive any other way.

Fr Gerard was one of the 3 main priests implicated unjustly in the Gunpowder plot to overthrow the monarchy.  While he managed to escape, another priest, Fr Garnet, superior of the Jesuits in England at the time, was executed.  Those who were able tried their best to obtain a relic of this man largely regarded as a saint at the time.  His head was placed on a stake and for many weeks it continued to look as though it was still alive, and crowds flocked to see it.  The authorities then decided to place it so that the face was turned upward in order to prevent the bolstering of the faith which this miracle caused.

Amazing reading and highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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