I was recently in the old city of London, looking up historical sites which hold so much importance for us. I walked along the Poultry and took the above photo at the building which occupies the site of the Poutlry Compter of old.
The Poultry Compter was once what its name suggests, but it became a prison in Tudor times and one of the many 'holding places' of Catholics. It was a very primitive place. Here in the Spring of 1594 Fr John Gerard SJ was held. This great confessor of the faith speaks about his experience here in his autobiography.
Today, the location is very different now from how it was in Tudor times; the tower block on the corner of Poultry and Old Jewry could be found in just about any modern city. The Great Fire would have scoured out, to its fetid foundations, the old Poultry Compter.
Close by is the magnificent Guildhall where, three years later in 1597, Fr John Gerard was brought for interogation.
In this enormous medieval aula Fr Gerard, before a Royal Commission, was subjected to an intense session from Richard Topcliffe, the priest hunter. It is hard to picture it now, but then a whole State was intent upon extinguishing the Catholic Church, which had been the very heart of its life and formation up till that time.
London, in spite of its secularism, is rich with Catholicism, precisely because of such great confessors. Blessed Henry Garnet SJ was tried in the Guildhall in 1606 and condemned to death here. The Guildhall somehow survived the Great Fire, and preserves its memory of the old days.
The secular age tries its best to maintain its project, but what these confessors of old witnessed to is the fullness of human life - the saving Mystery of Jesus Christ.