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Catholic Activity: Hear No Evil

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A story about Father John Gerard, S.J., and the clanking chains.

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In the Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, Father John Gerard, an English Jesuit, tells the story of his life in the disguise of a country gentleman during the years when Catholics and their priests were outlawed by the English. Appearing openly and in high fashion, playing at cards, hunting, making himself a charming guest and companion, he secretly said Mass for Catholic families, instructed converts, gave retreats and from time to time hid in hiding-holes to escape arrest by the pursuivants — priest-hunters. Finally he was caught and imprisoned in a place called "the Counter in the Poultry," a set of four houses used by the Crown for a prison.

The jailer had been told to put him in close confinement but to treat him well as he was a gentleman, but this made no impression on the jailer. He put him instead in a tiny garret with a doorway so small he had to crawl through on his hands and knees, a ceiling so low he could stand only by the bed, and the window always open so that on rainy days and nights the bed, his only piece of furniture, was always soaked. The stench from the prison privies was ever-present, but the priest was at peace and wrote, "By God's blessing, I enjoyed that peace of soul which the world does not and cannot give."

Nearby, out of sight, were other prisoners, not gentlemen, and it was because of them that during the three-month stay in the Counter in the Poultry, Father Gerard polished the chains on his legs.

"When I first had them on, they were rusty, but I had made them bright and shining by wearing them every day and moving about in them. My cell was narrow and I could have walked across in three paces if my legs had been free. I used to shuffle from side to side with short steps. In this way, I got some exercise. Also, and this mattered more, when the prisoners below started singing lewd songs and Geneva psalms, I was able to drown out their noise with the less unpleasant sound of my clanking chains."

There is always something we can do to keep our sense of hearing from being an avenue of sin for us — even if it is just walking away.

Activity Source: Saints and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York; reprinted by TAN Publishers, 1958

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