Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/83

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37
The Holy Maid of Kent

when chance afforded her an opportunity. If she was moved by an evil spirit, as her enemies afterwards pretended, there never was a clearer case of Satan's kingdom divided against itself. She blamed the general laxity of the age and the "corruption of manners and evil life" to be found then in England. She exhorted people to approach the sacraments, and in particular to frequent confession and other good Catholic practices.[1] Her influence over the minds and hearts of those she came in contact with, as far as is known, was a powerful incentive to their leading a better life. Henry Man, for example, a Carthusian monk and procurator of their house at Sheen, writes early in 1533 to Dr. Bocking, the confessor of the nun, in enthusiastic terms of her. "Let us praise God," he says, "who has raised up this holy virgin, a mother, indeed, to me and a daughter to thee for our salvation. She has raised a fire in some hearts that you would think like unto the operation of the Holy Spirit in the primitive Church if you saw with what frequent tears some bewailed their transgressions." [2] At a subsequent date the same monk writes, that it is only "of late it has pleased God to give me some knowledge of His secret and wonderful works, which He works daily in His special spiritual daughter. This 'accends' my heart in the love of God." I beg you, he continues in his letter to Dr. Bocking, "to accept me as your spiritual son, and ask the prayers of Elizabeth Barton to obtain grace to mortify myself and live only for Christ."[3] Another monk of the same monastery writes to the nun asking her prayers for himself, as he finds as yet but little profit to his soul by his leaving the world.[4] His letter shows what an exalted idea he had formed of her holiness of life.

Without doubt, however, the most important testimony as to the character of the "holy maid" is the opinion as to her virtues entertained by the venerable bishop Fisher. It

  1. Lambard, p. 148. The act of attainder seems to admit her reputation for sanctity and her influence for good. Richard Morison, the uncompromising supporter of Henry's policy, in a work printed so soon after the execution of the "Holy Maid" as 1537, admits the general opinion of her sanctity. "Tandem comparata sanctimoniæ fama, cœpit mirum in modum non plebem, non vulgus imperitum, sed magnates alioqui viros, multos preterea doctores, abbates aliquot, Warramum ipsum archiepiscopum Cantuariensem, atque adeo legates apostolicos, deludere." Apomaxis Calumniarum, fol. 72 (1537).
  2. Calendar, vi. No. 835.
  3. Ibid., No. 1149.
  4. Ibid., No. 1468.