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When in Rome December 1677


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Collegio del Santissimo Nome di Gesù, Rome *



The bells were tolling in the distance as the visitor was shown into the palatial offices of Cardinal Johann Eberhard Nidhard, S. Bartolomeo all'Isola, and leader of the Society of Jesus. Though now 70 years old, the Cardinal was still a handsome man, all the more impressive in appearance seated behind an ornate desk with gold leaf.


"Your Eminence, Giovanni Modero," the herald announced. The heels echoed upon the marble floors as the Papal Legate moved to greet the Cardinal. "Giovanni, what brings you here this day?" the Cardinal asked with suspicion. This was no social visit. There was no doubt that he came bearing the instructions of Pope Innocent XI.


"Your Eminence, His Holiness has sent me to ask what you know of an English Order of Saint Joseph? It is said to be an order of your Society."


"Why, nothing of course," the Cardinal lied. Falsehoods came so easily to those in high positions.


"Another product of Titus Oates fancy?" Modero asked sarcastically. Oates was a former Jesuit who was causing all sorts of damage to the Catholic faithful in England. It had the Holy Father worried. "There is tale of this Order murdering English lords, or plans to even target the English King."


"I assure you that this organization, if it exists, is no part of the Society," came the rejoinder.


"That is good, for the Holy Father would be displeased to think that the Church would support any group of Catholics that would be bent on vengeance, let alone threaten the life of King Charles. It would be the end of Catholics in England and could mean a war against the faithful. Only a mad man would think such a thing a good idea. He has asked that you look into the matter of this Order. If you find it, you shall be expected to end it."


"I understand," came the experienced reply. "What information can you share that would help me locate this so-called Order?"


With no humor, Modero replied "there are nine monks in London. If your agents look, they will be easy to find, I am sure."


"I will send instructions today," the Cardinal promised. Such a pledge was met with a nod. The business was concluded and the Legate withdrew.


Later that day, a lone rider could be seen emerging from the Chiesa del Gesu, heading for the coast. In his care were coded instructions. Innocent XI would have been distressed to know the contents and the Cardinal was satisfied that it was better that the Pope did not know. The cold weather would slow communication links; but, with luck, the message would arrive in London before Christmas.



*Chiesa del Gesù" is the mother church of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order also known as Jesuits.

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  • 1 year later...

December 29th Just after Dusk


The cave was dank and cold. The raging fire was small comfort in such an open space.


"Why is it that you are masked?" asked the one known as Peter. Each monk wore a hood but none wore the black mask of the courier.


"It is best that you do not see my face," came the accented reply. "Why are their only six of you?"


"The other six are traveling about England and Ireland, looking after the flock." Peter unsealed the letter carried by the dark visitor.


"How do you know where they will be so that you can contact them?" the stranger asked impatiently.


"We have addresses where they might be reached," came a more guarded reply. The contents of the letter were read and Peter took to his feet. "I do not understand," a look of betrayal on his face.


"Let me help you understand," came the whispered response.


In the distance, a church bell rang, tolling six times.

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  • 5 years later...

Summer of 1678

"Your Eminence," the messenger spoke at last as the Cardinal studied the letter in front of him.  The Cardinal looked up at the Englishman standing before him.

"The church is aware of the Protestant heir to the English throne.  His Holiness has no sympathy for the Duke of York, seeing him as a pawn of King Louis.  However, we Jesuits seek to ... aid any Catholic royalty.   It would be a shame if something were to happen to the child.  I shall pray for it."

"I understand," replied the messenger.  There was a mission, but it would be denied by the Church.  "I had best set out for London."

"You shall find a bar of gold among your belongings," the Cardinal responded.  "Go with God." 

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