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Autobiography of a Hunted Priest by John…

Autobiography of a Hunted Priest (1609)

by John Gerard

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A strange little book this: one of the very early examples of an autobiography, written by an English Jesuit priest at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It's only about two hundred pages long, but it's packed full with the event of an extraordinary life, much of it spent in covert work as a Catholic missionary in England under the reign of Elizabeth I. It's one of the few, if not the only, complete first-hand accounts we possess of that world; an account which is made even more interesting by the fact that Gerard was involved, at least tangentially, in the infamous Gunpowder Plot. Fascinating primary source material, and really worth dipping in to if you have an interest in the religious and social history of the period ( )
  siriaeve | Apr 26, 2008 |
Points of interest:
Fr Gerard taught people to go to communion weekly.
William Wiseman in his book emphasised value of Devotion.
Priests in the Pale said "it was lawful to fight against the Catholic Faction, [ie Hugh O'Neill] because no one had seemed at all clear why they had taken up arms."
Person's Spiritual Directory, published 1581, had largest sale of any English spiritual work in its day. 12 Protestant editions came out before 1600.
In all prisons it seemed easy to have visitors and presents and quite possible to escape. Prisoners communicated with each other quite freely. [Presumably Government could not afford reliable jailors.]

Extraordinarily well translated and quite gripping to read. Beyond praise.
1 vote jhw | Apr 15, 2006 |
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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 epitomizes 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.
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