upply missioners thenceforward,
This young Westcountryman had a character all his own. He had been charged with nothing but the exercise of his priestly functions, and was offered his life, on the day of his execution, if he would but swear that the Queen was Supreme Head of the Church of England. “Upon this,” continues the chronicle, “he took the Bible into his hands, made the sign of the Cross upon it, kissed it, and said: ‘The Queen neither ever was, nor is, nor ever shall be, the Head of the Church of England!’” Campion had only recently heard the news in the August of 1579. One can read between the lines of a passage like this: “We all thank you much for your account of Cuthbert’s martyrdom; it gave many of us a divine pleasure. Wretch that I am, how far has that novice distanced me! May he be favourable to his old friend and tutor! Now shall I boast of these titles more than ever before.” Within the next six months Edmund Campion was to see the beginning of his heart’s desire.
Dr. Allen, the founder of Douay, was in Rome to organize the English College; and there he brought all his persuasion to bear upon the General of the Society of Jesus and his consultors, that the English Jesuits might be allowed to join the English secular priests in the pressing redemption of their distracted country. There were the gravest reasons for and against the proposal, but the answer given to Dr. Allen was that the Society would do its best to supply missioners thenceforward, and that Robert Parsons and Edmund Campion should be sent first as forerunners of the rest. Allen was naturally overjoyed. While Merc?ur, the Father-General, wrote officially to Campion’s Superior at Prague, Allen wrote a moving letter to Campion himself: “My father, brother, son,” he calls him, “make all haste and come, my dearest Campion . . . from Prague to Rome, and thence to our own England.” . . . “God, in whose hands are the issues, has at last granted that our own Campion, with his extraordinary gifts of wisdom and grace, shall be restored to us. Prepare yourself, then, for a journey, for a work, for a trial.”
The imaginations of Campion’s comrades at Prague were touched to the quick by the prospect opening before their happy brother. One of these bore witness to the fragrance of his own thoughts by painting a garland of roses and lilies on the wall of Campion’s little room, just at the bed’s head. A white-haired Silesian, Father James Gall, wrote in scroll fashion, by night, over the outer door of that same little room: “P[ater] Edmundus Campianus, Martyr.” For such a romantic irregularity the old saint was reprimanded. He replied quite simply: “But I had to do it!” Poor Campion, who was shy, had seen both these things, before Campanus, the sympathetic Rector, gave him his marching orders to start at once for Rome. “The Fathers do verily seem to suspect something about me; I hope their suspicions may come true!” he said. “God’s will be done, not mine.” And then, adds that first English biographer who so well knew him and so much loved him: “Being scarce able to hold tears for joy and tenderness of heart, he went to his chamber, and there upon his knees to God satisfied his appetite of weeping and thanksgiving, and offered himself to His divine disposition without any exception or restraint: whether it were to rack, cross-quartering, or any other torment or death whatsoever.”