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THE HEADINGS TO WHICH ALL MEN ARE BOUND TO ANSWER SINCERELY BEFORE THEY ARE ADMITTED TO THE BED AND BOARD OF THE ENGLISH COLLEGE
NOVEMBER 30, 1598
Concerning the postulant’s true name, age, place of birth, and education.
I am named William Alabaster, age 31. I was born in the town of Hadleigh in the county of Suffolk. I studied my grammar at Westminster, and thence was sent to Cambridge in my 16th year, where I stayed for 14 years.
Concerning his parents, their rank and condition &c., and how many brothers, sisters, or close kin he has, heretic or Catholic.
My father’s family is descended from the ancient and noble line of the Arbalasters, who came into England with the Normans, and in Norman pedigrees are called the Royal Arbalasters, for which reason even now we bear a crossbow on our family arms as a token of our original occupation.
My mother’s family is descended from the Winthrops, a distinguished old stock. My father, born in hard times, spent his early years in the Spanish trade, and then ceased when his affairs did not speed well, and now lives on a small but sufficient estate, a Catholic sympathizer, as I well hope.
I have a number of kinsmen on my mother’s side. Some are citizens of London and merchants, prosperous enough, of whom some are morose heretics, and others (who for a long time conducted business in Spain) are Catholic, but secretly, and they have many other like-minded men in their fraternity and guild. The rest of my relatives live splendidly enough, like noblemen. Part of these are heretics, and part are indifferent and trim according to the times. I have three surviving sisters and two brothers.
Concerning the subjects he has studied, his academic progress, and where he studied.
Grammar, poetry, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, mathematics, history, criticism, philology, and I have more or less sipped or drunk deep from nearly all the ancient Greek and Latin authors, insofar as I expected them to be worthwhile for theology. At Cambridge I read many of the minor works of the Greek Fathers, and likewise of the Latin ones and Church History, Peter Lombard’s Sententiae, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa, Father Robert Bellarmine, Suárez in three volumes, Stapleton’s Principia, and similar writings by Catholics. I studied for twelve years, at which time one takes one’s licentiate in theology.
About the health and infirmity of body and mind which he experiences or has experienced at some time.
I have enjoyed good enough health from my earliest boyhood (for which thanks to be God), save that twice or thrice I have suffered an attack of a light three-day fever. In respect to every thing else my body is sound, compliant and equal to the strains of studies, vigil and labor, nor to the best of my knowledge is it threatened in any part to this day. I have always had a steady and tranquil mind, matching my body, and never disturbed or lucid only at intervals. But now I feel it so serene thanks to the light of the Faith, so clear and soft thanks to these springtime days of my first fervor, that it is impossible to trouble or exasperate it with gusts of contrition and fear, with respect to the way of the Catholic discipline. And yet my good jailkeepers defamed my conversion with the slander of insanity.
About his vocation, i. e. has he ever been a heretic or a schismatic? And when? In what way? For the sake of what thing has he been made a Catholic, and what his befallen him about this business, if he has suffered anything.
For my previous life I have been born and reared amongst heretics, and was deeply plunged in error. I burned with a Vatinian, or rather a Calvinistic hatred against the Catholic Church. In all my studies, prayers, and hopes I looked askance at the Church. But in my twenty-ninth year I began to recuperate somewhat from this fury, and leapt to another opinion, so that I believed the Catholics’ and Protestants’ Church to be one, and that it did not count much for salvation which one belonged to, although the party of the Calvinists was more pristine and pure. And I almost got mired down in this bog. And now I yearned to write books about the Catholics to salvage their reputation, now I prepared my shoulders to bear the weight of malefic benefices and prebendaries, now in my mind I set the limits of my ambition amongst the highest honors of the realm, now as a happy suitor I long readied myself to sue for the marriage of a pretty little bride, which I put off until I could gain the single prebendary which would supply me with 400 crowns a year. For the same reason I attended upon the Earl of Essex, who undertook to bring this business to completion as soon as possible. So when I was lingering at Court (where it is equally difficult to become a good man and to find one) and was reading (not without yawns) a certain book of our Rainolds written in behalf of the Catholic cause, and I had not yet run through the preface, my mind suddenly drank in such a flash of divine light, deep within me I sensed such a shower of unwonted happiness, that in that very moment I eagerly sprang up and broke forth with an inner voice: “Now I am a Catholic!” So immediately bidding farewell to everybody at Court, to the Earl, to the prebendary, I flew back to Cambridge , swiftly announced to my betrothed an ending to our love, recalled myself to solitude, to prayers, tears, groanings, fastings and sleeping on the ground, so that, with the vilenesses of my previous life cleansed away, I might imbibe the beams of faith and charity with a more tranquil eye and heart, and might imitate the honor of Catholic discipline with the newness of my life. At the same time I earnestly besought God to give me a sixmonth of peace and armistice, during which I could prepare myself for all controversies, so I could come to grips with the heretics with no disgrace to our cause, whenever it might come to that. And thus with God’s indulgence it came to pass. Meanwhile my friends advised me to slip away overseas before this thing became visible. I denied I would do this, but said that I would await with a confident mind to see what the false Bishops would say or do. So at length I was arrested and placed in close custody for seven months, whence I was often fetched to appear before royal commissioners. To these I offered more than a hundred arguments favoring the Catholic cause, and demanded that they should reply successfully to each and every one, stipulating that, if they should give satisfaction, I should surrender. Why say more? I shut their mouths, so that, although provoked, asked and demanded, they dared not mutter a word. But after their ample promises, entreaties and threats they saw me persist, unbroken and unmoved, they striped of me of all my dignities and goods and foolish orders of their trifling ministers, and remanded me to prison. Therefore, when I perceived I was entirely despoiled of the solace of books, and that no hope remained of disputing with them or treating with any others, I escaped, went into hiding, fled, and came here.
About his intention and desire, what he feels about leading a Church life and observing the discipline of this College as long as he remains here.
I have fixed all the powers of my soul on this intention, that they may always act and exert themselves over this one thing, how I might promote God’s glory for the good of the Church. My intellect contemplates this, my will craves it, my memory broods on it, my judgment weighs it, my desire boils for it, my hope yearns for it, in sum, my entire mind ponders and deliberates. And since the quickest avenue to all of this things leads through humility and obedience, I shall offer myself compliant to all the rules of this College, so that I may attain that grace which is granted the humble.