It’s a rainy, cold day in October, 1588. A man appears on the road ahead of you, scrambling out of the overgrown ditch.
He’s wet through and through. Dead leaves stick to his plain clothing.
He approaches with a hurried air.
“Hello!” he says. “I seem to have lost my falcon. Have you seen it? Heard its bell tinkling, perhaps? No? Oh well. Thank you.”
He walks off in disappointment, diving again into the bushes by the road.
You shrug in sympathy and scurry home to a warm hearth.
You don’t realize that you’ve just seen Fr. John Gerard—a man who’s being hunted like a fox. After all, this is Elizabethan England, and it’s illegal to be a Catholic priest. Priests who are discovered are tortured and killed in horrific ways.
At the age of fifteen, John heard his call to priesthood. Although he spent two years in prison simply for being Catholic—where he met a saintly companion of St. Edmund Campion who suffered horribly—he did not falter in pursuing his vocation.
He attended seminary in France. Then, a year after his ordination—he snuck back into England, using the ploy of the missing falcon to travel off-road without arousing suspicion.
He worked secretly, tirelessly, for nearly twenty years, at one point being imprisoned again and tortured.
Just before the Gunpowder Plot erupted, he left England and spent his last years as a spiritual director for English-speaking schools on the Continent.
Everyone who knew him was impressed by his courage and uncanny talent for remembering things. Of himself, he said only, “My unworthiness robbed me of the crown of martyrdom.”
If you want to learn more about Fr. John Gerard—he can tell you himself! In his firsthand account The Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, he tells of the pursuit of his vocation, his secret arrival in England, his work, capture, escape, and everything in between. It’s a true story far more inspiring and thrilling than any Hollywood invention! Available today at The Catholic Company!