During the 1580s and 1590s, Byrd's Catholicism was the driving motive for his music. As the persecutions of Catholics increased during this period, and occasionally touched on Byrd and his family, he wrote and openly published motets and three masses (one each in three, four, and five parts), which are his finest achievement in sacred music, almost certainly composed for small chapel gatherings of Catholics. Byrd had taken up the publishing business again, printing the first English songbook, Psalmes, Sonets and Songs in 1588. This and his other songbooks include Byrd's compositions in the leading secular genres of the day: the ayre or lute song, the madrigal, and the consort song for solo voice and viols. The consort song's finest hour came at the hands of Byrd, who preferred texts of a high moral (frequently religious) or metaphysical tone. They are notable for the way the viol parts lead an existence independent of the vocal line. He openly published two Gradualia in 1605 and 1607, with music for the Propers of all the major feast days. His last collection, Psalmes, Songs and Sonnets from 1611, consisted mostly of previously published works, but did include two of his viol consort works. Byrd is at his most distinguished in the free fantasias for consort, particularly the later pieces in five and six parts, works of exceptionally luxurious texture. Byrd's last songs were published in 1614, and he lived out his life comfortably at Stondon Massey, where he died in 1623.