Following the Reformation, the Papacy made frequent and bloody attacks on Reformed churches and Christians throughout Europe. John Foxe (d. 1587) wrote an account of this (and other) persecution Reformed churches faced. Here’s one such story of Peter Serre.
“Peter Serre was originally a priest, but reflecting on the errors of popery, he at length embraced the reformed religion, and learned the trade of a shoemaker. Having a brother at Toulouse, a bigoted Roman Catholic, Serre, out of fraternal love, made a journey to that city, in the hope of dissuading him from his superstitions: the brother’s wife not approving of his design, lodged a complaint against him, on which he was apprehended, and made a full declaration of his faith.”
“The judge asked him concerning his occupation, to which he replied, ‘I have of late practised the trade of a shoemaker.’ ‘Of late!’ said the judge; ‘and what did you practice formerly?’ ‘That I am almost ashamed to tell you,’ exclaimed Serre, ‘because it was the vilest and most wicked occupation imaginable.’ All who were present supposed, from these words, that he had been a murderer or a thief, and that what he spoke was through contrition. The judge, however, ordered him to explain precisely what he meant, when Serre, with tears in his eyes, exclaimed, ‘Oh, I was formerly a popish priest.’ This reply so much exasperated the judge, that he condemned Serre first to be degraded, then to have his tongue cut, and afterwards to be publicly burnt.”
This brings many thoughts to one’s mind. It is tempting to chuckle at Serre’s answer; however, judging from other similar accounts, Serre’s tears were from a truly sorry heart. He was sorry that he had been one who had clouded the gospel and the Word along with the papacy. Yet he was strong in the Christian faith and his profession to the point of death.
If you haven’t read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, I strongly recommend purchasing a copy soon. And two more historical facts to pique your interest: 1) Foxe himself came out of the darkness of the papacy to protestantism, and 2) the late 16th century Catholic church hated Foxe’s book so much they did everything they could to destroy it.