Tuesday 30 June 2020

The Irish Dominican Martyrs

Below is the second of the articles by Rosaleen O'Neil published in the The Rosary Magazine in 1905. As this journal was a publication of the Dominican order, it is no surprise to see that she is looking at the Irish Dominican martyrs. She tells us that although one hundred and thirteen names of Dominicans have emerged for official consideration from the Dublin diocesan inquiries, we are unlikely to ever know the actual number of people associated with the Order who might be considered as martyrs. She brings a comprehensive selection of them to our attention here including the female Third Order Dominican martyrs. 

The Irish Dominican Martyrs

IN a previous article on the "Irish Martyrs" I promised to give later on an account of the martyrdom of some of the Irish children of St. Dominic, in the hope that it would be acceptable to the readers of The Rosary, who, I presume, are all clients of the holy patriarch.

The Irish Dominicans hold an honorable place in the list of Ireland's martyrs, even as they do in that of her apostles. God alone knows how many of them suffered for the faith. The names of one hundred and thirteen have been included in the list of those whose causes have been completed before the Dublin diocesan court, and are now before the Roman tribunal. But that this figure falls very short of the full number who have shed their blood for the faith in Ireland will appear from the following facts:

Of the thirty-eight convents of the Order that were in the country at the commencement of Elizabeth's reign, only two, which escaped because they were hidden away amidst bogs and marshes, were in existence at the time of her death; and of the hundreds of religious who had dwelt in them, there were only five or six aged men living apart in the houses of friends. Some, of course, had died natural deaths. Many more had fled the country at the command of superiors, and found refuge in the convents of their Order on the Continent, where some of them taught in the schools and others filled positions of authority. But who can tell the number of those who were put to death by a brutal soldiery, often whilst in the discharge of their sacred duties, or of those who were thrown into prison laden with chains, there to drag out a miserable existence till death called them to the martyr's crown? Their names and their number shall be revealed only on the last day. Those who managed to elude the vigilance of the persecutors and remained in the country did so at the peril of their lives.

Another fact, which speaks volumes, is that recorded in a letter written in the seventeenth century, and still extant, namely, that over one hundred priests who had studied in the Irish Dominican Convent of Corpo Santo, Lisbon, were put to death during one year alone of the many periodical outbursts of persecution. Now, Corpo Santo was not founded till 1634, in the reign of Charles I, nearly a century after the first enactment of the penal laws. Moreover, we must not forget that the Irish Dominican Convent of Louvain, founded in 1624, as well as several other continental colleges, was constantly sending over fresh laborers for the vineyard of the Lord.

These came in defiance of the law, and kept the torch of faith lighting in the land. They went about in various disguises, as carters, as dealers, as private gentlemen with gilt-hilted swords by their sides, and in different other characters. It was only by stealth and in the night time that they were able to discharge their priestly functions. We read of Father Caspar Boyton, of Cashel, who died about the year 1652, that for three years he looked after the cattle of a Catholic nobleman, whilst he performed his spiritual duties by night. It is also told of him how, when he had lost his sight owing to the hardships of his life, he went about from house to house clothed as a beggar, hearing the confessions of the faithful.

It was only on the mountain side, or in the deep recess of some desolate glen that it was often possible to offer the Holy Sacrifice. The Corrig-an-Affrion, or "Mass Rock," is still reverently pointed out by the people in many parts of the country as the hallowed spot around which their forefathers worshipped at the peril of their lives. In not a few instances they were taken by surprise, and the blood of the sacrificing priest was poured forth on the altar of sacrifice by the hands of a wicked soldiery.

Truly may it be said that the Irish Dominican province was a nursery of martyrs during the penal times. Every Irish youth who put on the habit during that terrible period knew that he might be called on at any moment to shed his blood for the faith, and if God did not grant to all this great privilege, we may be sure they did not lose the reward.

Of those who received the martyr's crown the names of few, comparatively speaking, have, as I have already said, come down to us. Amongst them there is one whose sufferings I made mention of in the previous article, Terence Albert O'Brien, Bishop of Emly, who was executed in Limerick in 1651, by orders of Ireton. The General Chapter of the Order, held in Rome five years after, write of him as follows:

 "After finishing his studies successfully in Spain, he returned to his native country, and there by word and example cultivated the vineyard of the Lord. Twice he was Prior in his native city of Limerick, once in Louvain. He went as Provincial to the General Chapter of the Order held in Rome in 1644, where, in acknowledgment of his services, he was made Master of Theology. When the Chapter had ended he set out for Lisbon to visit the two convents of his Order there, one for brothers, the other for sisters. While there, news reached him that he had been appointed Bishop of Emly by Urban VIII. He devoted himself to the discharge of the duties of his new office, aiding by his authority, wisdom and watchfulness, the Church in Ireland, which then had special need of such a guide. These qualities he gave a singular proof of while he was in the city of Limerick, when it was beseiged by Henry Ireton, Cromwell's son-in-law. He was offered a bribe of forty thousand gold crowns and a pass to any place he pleased if he would quit the city and cease to urge the citizens to resistance — all of which he refused, preferring to give his help to the Catholic people up to his death."

Martyrs like this illustrious prelate are to be found in all grades of the Irish Dominican hierarchy. As provincials, priors, preachers, confessors, students, novices, lay-brothers and tertiaries they suffered for the faith with a constancy equal to that of the early martyrs.

Amongst the first of whom mention is made were two fathers and seven students of our Order, who were put to death by drowning in the year 1602. We read how they and several others, forty or forty-two in all, members of different religious Orders, having presented a petition asking for a safe conduct out of the kingdom, were commanded to assemble in Scattery Island in the Shannon. They did so, and were then taken on board a man-of-war. When they reached the open sea, all were thrown overboard. The names of the servants of God have not been handed down.

The next on record are the two brothers, Donough and John Olvin, or O'Luinin, members of the community of Derry. The first mentioned, who was Prior of the convent, was hanged and quartered, with many secular priests, by the English heretics in the city square about the year 1608. His brother John had been hanged for the faith in the same city some time previously.

 In the year 1642, Father Peter O'Higgins. Prior of the Convent of Naas, was cast into prison, but as nothing could be proved against him that would de- serve capital punishment according to the laws of the country, he was told he would be set free and rewarded if he would only renounce the Catholic religion. A promise to this effect and signed by the Viceroy was given to him. Thinking that he was terrified and would surely apostatize in view of the gallows, the authorities ordered him to be led to execution. When the holy man had mounted the scaffold, addressing the assembled people he spoke to them of the sufferings he had endured and the hope he had of meriting the martyr's crown. He concluded in the following manner:

 "Almighty God, Who protects the innocent, disposing all sweetly, has brought things about so that, accused as a seducer, and arraigned for certain crimes made such by the laws of this kingdom, the sole reason why I am condemned to death to-day is that I profess the Catholic religion. Here is the authentic proof of my innocence, the autograph letter of the Viceroy, offering to me very rich rewards and my life if I abandon the Catholic religion. I call God and man to witness that I firmly and unhesitatingly reject these offers, and that willingly and gladly I enter into this conflict professing that faith."

He then threw the paper to a friend of his. After he had been cast off, his body, whilst still hanging, was frequently shaken by the executioner, and while it still hung he uttered the words, "Deo Gratias." Thus he died, and earned the martyr's crown.

We read of Father Richard Barry, a native of Cork, Prior of the Convent of Cashel, that before the siege of that ancient city he sent his subjects away that they might escape the cruelty of the enemy. When the place was taken, a great number of ecclesiastics and of the laity were at once put to death. Father Barry, who was the only one that appeared in the religious habit, holding the crucifix aloft in one hand and the rosary in the other, was treated with exceptional barbarity. Being asked to cast off his habit and join in the heretical service, he fearlessly answered: "This habit of mine represents the spoils of Christ, and His Passion, and it is the standard of my warfare." On saying this he was seized and bound to a stake. The soldiers insulted him while they were preparing tortures to try his constancy. A pile of faggots was made, and set on fire, and during two hours the holy man was slowly tortured from head to foot, yet from the midst of the flames he did not cease to commend his own soul and the faithful people to God. At last he was run through with a sword, and so gave up his soul to God on the 15th of September, 1647.

A few years later, in 1651, Fathers Bernard and Laurence O'Ferall suffered death for the faith. I quote from the Acts of the General Chapter of the Order held in 1656: "They were seized while they were engaged at prayer in the early morning, in the chapel of their convent of Longford. The soldiers, coming in, inflicted more than twenty-four deadly wounds on Father Bernard; yet he received the Sacraments before he died, as he had always desired. Father Laurence was taken immediately to the governor, who recognized him as one who had been with the army in obedience to the authority of the Apostolic Nuncio, and ordered him to be hanged the next day. Owing to the intercession of some friends the execution was deferred for three days, to the great sorrow of Laurence, who blamed them for causing the delay, and employed the whole of that time praying to God that He would not allow the palm of martyrdom to be snatched from him. When the time came he mounted the ladder and addressed some words of consolation to the Catholics who stood by. He inveighed with such earnestness and powerful arguments against heresy that the governor ordered him to be executed without further delay. Then the martyr, taking his leave of the people, put his rosary round his neck. Taking in his right hand the crucifix, and putting both hands under his scapular, he told the executioner to do his duty. When he was thrown off the ladder, he took both his hands from under his scapular and raised up the cross as a token of triumph. Not only those who stood by but the governor, was astonished at the sight; he caused the body to be taken down in a respectful manner, and gave a safe conduct to all the clergy of the neighborhood to take part in the divine office and to assist at the burial of the martyr."

 I make no apology for giving such a long extract, and I am sure my readers do not require it. It would be a pity to curtail it.

 Of Father Thaddeus Moriarty, who was Prior of the Convent of Holy Cross Tralee, we read that when the Cromwellian persecution was raging he might have easily escaped to a place of safety but he courageously refused to do so through compassion for the faithful, ta whom he saw his presence was most necessary on account of the want of priests to administer the Sacraments. He was taken prisoner and carried to Killarney, and there condemned to be hanged. On hearing that he was sentenced to die, he pressed and kissed the hands of the messenger who brought the news, and distributed money amongst his jailors and the soldiers who were to lead him to execution after he had been stripped and severely flogged. From the top of the ladder he exhorted the faithful to be patient, and to hold fast to the faith. Having recited the' verse, "Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit," he met a glorious death, the very heretics being struck with admiration and saying, "If ever a papist was a martyr he was one." He suffered death October 15th, 1653. His countenance, which was wan and emaciated, owing to his long detention in prison, seemed to be transfigured after death and to emit rays of light, so that the very executioners confessed that it was like the face of an angel. It was said of him that he was never known to be angry. He showed such patience during his sufferings in prison, and when he was stripped and flogged and led to execution, that even his enemies were forced to admire him. There is a chalice that belonged to the martyr still in use in the Dominican church of Tralee. It was accidentally found some years ago by a member of his family, the late Doctor Moriarty, Bishop of Kerry, who gave it to the Dominican Fathers. It bears the following inscription : "Orate pro Carolo Sughrue, qui me fieri fecit pro Conventu Traliensi — Priore Thadeo O'Moriarty, 1651."

The Convents of Derry and Coleraine gave each a band of glorious martyrs to the Church. That of Derry was the oldest Dominican foundation in Ireland. It was founded about the year 1221 by one of the princely family of O'Donnell, at the solicitation of a Brother Reginald, who is said to have brought with him a letter from St. Dominic. One of its members, Father John O'Mannin, who lived in the seventeenth century, told a thrilling story to Father Michael McQuilin, the Subprior of the Dominican Convent of Rouen in France. It was to this effect : One night the soldiers surrounded the convent, and having broken jn, killed the entire community except the forementioned Father Mannin, who managed to escape by swimming across the river Foyle. The number put to death was thirty-two. Father O'Mannin was afterwards seized and put to the torture on several occasions. Once he was thrown to the ground by his persecutors with such violence that his back was broken. He lived a cripple till his death in 1637.

Some time in the reign of Elizabeth the soldiers attacked the convent of Saint Mary's of the Rosary in Coleraine, and massacred in cold blood Father MacFerge, the Prior, and his entire community of twenty-three or twenty-four religious.

One would fain linger lovingly on these glorious records of heroism, which are the heritage of the Irish Dominicans, but I must not trespass too much on the columns of The Rosary. I cannot, however, conclude without mentioning the cases of some of the lay-brothers and tertiaries of the Order.

Of the lay-brothers who suffered, the names of four are included in the official list. They were David Fox, of Kilmallock Convent, who while kneeling at the altar was run through with a sword, and as he lay on the ground had his brains dashed out. This was in 1648. The next was Donald O'Neaghen, of the Convent of Roscommon, who suffered in the same year. He was first scourged and then pierced with a sword. Another lay-brother of the same convent, Bernard O 'Kelly, after enduring for a long time the filth of a prison, the weight of iron chains, and hunger, was condemned to death and publicly executed at Gal way in 1653. Two years before, in 1651, James Moran, a lay-brother of Athenry Convent, was also put to death for the faith.

There were martyrs, also, amongst our Irish sisters. The names of two are included in the list forwarded to Rome. They were Honoria Burke and Honoria Magaen. The first sister took the habit of the Third Order when only fourteen years old. She built a house near the church of the Dominicans at Burishoole, which is about twelve miles from Castle- bar, County Mayo, where, living in community for nearly a century during the reigns of Elizabeth, James I and Charles I, she devoted herself continuously to works of piety till she was quite decrepit. In the last persecution of Cromwell she, with another of her community and a maidservant, fled to an island in the bay, called Saint's Island. They were pursued, seized, stripped of their clothes, though it was the month of February, and flung into a boat with such violence that three of Honoria Burke's ribs were broken, and she was left to die. The servant took her on her shoulders to the church of the Order in Burishoole, where  she laid her before the altar of the Blessed Virgin and left her for a while to search for the other sister in the wood. On her return she found Honoria kneeling before the altar with head erect, as if she was in prayer, and sleeping calmly in the Lord.

Honoria Magaen was also a professed  member of the Third Order. She, too, was attacked by the minions of the law in Saint's Island, stripped of her clothing and wounded. Fearing more for her chastity than her life, she succeeded in making her escape. She fled into a neighboring wood, where she concealed herself in the hollow trunk of a tree, next day she was found there frozen to death.

The last of the Order to suffer death the faith in Ireland, so far as is known, was Father Gerald Fitzgibbon, who was slain by soldiers in the town of Listowell, County Kerry, in 1691. It was as late as 1745, the year of Fontenoy, that Catholics were allowed places of worship, and many priests released from prison. And although, since the Act of Emancipation in 1829, the dark night of persecution has passed away, it would be a mistake to think that the Irish Catholic clergy — especially members of religious orders — and the people are not still labouring under disabilities. The very Act not only left several penal acts unrepealed, but created many new disabilities and made certain provisions of former acts more severe than they were before. To quote only a few of the enact-ments. The twenty-sixth clause is as follows:

If any Roman Catholic ecclesiastic, any member of any of the communities or societies aforementioned, shall exercise any of the rites or ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion, or wear the habit of his Order, save within the usual places of worship, or in private houses, any person being convicted thereof shall forfeit for every such offence the sum of £ 50."

The twenty-ninth clause enacts that: "If any Jesuit, etc., shall after the commencement of this act come into this realm, he shall be taken to be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being thereof law- fully convicted, shall be sentenced to be banished from the United Kingdom for the term of his natural life."

The thirty-fourth says: "Any person admitting a Jesuit, etc., shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and being thereof lawfully convicted shall be sentenced to be banished from the United Kingdom for the term of his natural life."

These and other enactments of a like nature were passed in deference to the prejudices of Orangemen, and although in most cases they are a dead letter, still they are a standing insult to all Catholics. Nor, indeed, may it be said that they are altogether a dead letter. The late Lord Chancellor Blackbume decided that the bequest of a sum of money for the maintenance of a Dominican priest was invalid on the ground that entering a religious Order was a misdemeanor. There have been several other cases of gross injustice perpetrated against the religious Orders in the name of these iniquitous laws.

Despite all the bitter persecutions which have assailed the Irish Dominican Province in common with other Orders, it is to-day in a more flourishing condition than it ever was before, even in the time when, prior to the so-called Reformation, it enjoyed the favor of nobles and of royalty. If not numerically as strong as formerly, still the area of its influence has been extended. Besides its fourteen well-established houses in Ireland, it has communities in Lisbon, Australia, the West Indies, and in the Eternal City itself. The present Irish children of St. Dominic are reaping the harvest planted by their martyred sires.

Rosary Magazine, Volume XXVII, (July-December, 1905), 366-371.

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Monday 29 June 2020

The Irish Martyrs

Archbishop William Walsh opened the diocesan inquiry into the cause of the Irish martyrs in Dublin in 1904. The following year this article, 'The Irish Martyrs', appeared in The Rosary Magazine. In it the author provides an impressive introduction to the martyrs and the challenges they faced. She ends with a brief selection but with a promise to follow up with more names and also a second piece on Irish Dominican Martyrs which I will reprint next.

The Irish Martyrs


THE hearts of Irish Catholics were filled with joy when a few months ago His Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin, to whom the task of holding the preliminary diocesan Court had been entrusted by his brother Bishops of the Irish Church, announced that the cause of the Irish who suffered for the faith from the time of Henry VIII of England down to 1691, had passed the first stage and was about to be submitted to the Roman tribunal.

It may naturally be asked why there had been such a long delay in taking the necessary steps for the canonization of those servants of God. It was not for want of a just appreciation of their merits. But there were serious difficulties in the way. Few, I dare say, if any, ever seriously doubted that they were put to death for the faith; but that fact could not for a time be so clearly proved as not to leave the shadow of a doubt that they had not suffered for political reasons. The Roman tribunals are very exacting as regards the nature of the evidence submitted to them. It must be proved to their satisfaction that those for whom the Church's highest honor — the palm of martyrdom — is claimed, have suffered for the faith. To suffer death for one's country is a glorious thing. "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" (It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country), says the poet; but it is not martyrdom in the sense understood by the Church. To be such one must undergo death, or sufferings which would naturally result in death, for the faith of Christ or for some virtue which Christ taught. Now the heretics maintained that the martyrs were put to death not because they were Catholics, but because they were rebels to the state. And as, until comparatively recent times, the official documents bearing on their trials were as so many sealed books, it was impossible to conclusively refute their lying statements. Since, however, access has been had to those documents, all doubts however slight as to the cause of martyrdom have vanished. It is quite clear that refusal to deny the spiritual supremacy of the Pope was the cause of the persecution which led to the deprivation of civil rights, imprisonment, transportation across the seas, torture, and in many cases the death of thousands of Irish men and women.

Henry VIII had rejected the Pope's authority and established an independent Church in England for some time before he attempted to do the same in Ireland. In 1537 an act was passed by the Irish Parliament declaring him supreme head of the Church in Ireland; and another act was passed in the same year punishing with the penalties of high treason those who refused to take the oath of supremacy. The following are some of the clauses of those acts:

 "The King, his heirs and successors, kings of England and lords of Ireland, shall be accepted and reputed the only supreme head on earth of the whole Church of Ireland.

"Any one who, by writing, preaching, teaching, or by any other act, shall maintain the authority and jurisdiction of the Bishops of Rome, or their aiders, shall for every such offence incur the penalties of praemunire.* [* Praemunire was a writ calling on a person to answer for contempt with which he was charged. If he failed to do so he lost all civil rights, and could be slain by any one with impunity.]

 "Any one commanded to take the said oath (the oath of the King's supremacy), obstinately refusing to do so, shall suffer the pains of death and other penalties in cases of high treason."

Henry's agents on the Continent boasted that by these acts the Irish nation had renounced the spiritual supremacy of Rome. How false this statement was will appear from the following facts:

"There were in parliament," writes Cardinal Moran in his "History of the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin Since the Reformation," "two spiritual proctors from every diocese; it was their special province 'upon such things of learning as should happen in controversy,' to declare what was the doctrine agreeable to truth and to the teaching of the Church; and from time immemorial they enjoyed the right that nothing contrary to their decision should be enacted in parliament."

This body had without a dissentient voice opposed the act of supremacy. On account of their opposition an order was made under the great seal of England declaring that they should be allowed no vote in parliament; and that their assent should nowise be requisite for any act of the legislature. To quote again the same writer: "The voice of the spiritual pastors being thus hushed, and many of the Irish chieftains having retired in disgust from the parliament, the act of supremacy was passed... Whatever may be deemed the civil result of the act, surely no impartial observer will affirm that such an enactment of an English parliament in Ireland, carried by despotism, can be in any way referred to the representatives of the Irish nation."

 Immediately after the passing of the acts the persecution was begun in right earnest. The King's deputy set out from the capital "on a martial course, a victorious circuit round about the whole kingdom." "At Waterford," he says, "we kept sessions, where were put to execution four felons, accompanied with another thief, a friar, whom we commanded to be hanged in his habit, and so to remain upon the gallows for a mirror to all his brethren to live truly." (State Papers, Henry VIII), It may be said without fear of contradiction that in no other country was ever such a fierce and prolonged persecution waged against the Catholic Church. An elaborate system of legislation, over and above what we have already mentioned, was devised and added to in succeeding reigns, having for its object the total extirpation of the faith in Ireland."

To mention only a few of the penal enactments. It was decreed:

"1. No one henceforth shall send his children or relations beyond the seas for education. Those who are abroad must return within a year, under penalty of the confiscation of their property.

"2. All Papist religious and priests shall forthwith depart from the Kingdom, under penalty of being put to death.

"3. No Papist shall dare to exercise the office of schoolmaster in the Kingdom.

"4. Whosoever shall harbor a priest, in town or country, shall forfeit his property to the Crown.

"5. Every one shall be present at our rites, ceremonies, etc., on Sundays and festivals."

And bravely, thank God, did the people resist all the attempts made to force them to abjure the faith. At the very commencement of the so-called Reformation the renegade Brown, Archbishop of Dublin, who was an Englishman and a creature of the King's, was forced to confess that "the common people of this isle are more zealous in their blindness than the saints and martyrs were in truth at the beginning of the Gospel." Their refusal to obey iniquitous laws brought upon them a persecution unrivalled for its diabolical ferocity.

Writing of it, the Four Masters make the following startling statement: "Although great was the persecution of the Roman Emperors against the Church, it is not so probable that so great a persecution as this ever came upon the world; so that it is impossible to tell or narrate its description unless it should be told by one who saw it."

O'Sullivan Beare gives a vivid description of the state to which the island was reduced in 1589: "All alarm from the Irish chieftains having ceased," he writes, "the persecution was renewed with all its horrors; a royal order was promulgated that all should renounce the Catholic faith, yield up the priests, receive from the heretical ministers the morality and tenets of the Gospel, and assist at their ceremonies on Sundays and holidays; threats and penalties, and force were to be employed to enforce compliance... The natives everywhere refused to be contaminated by the preaching and rites of the heretics... Every effort of the Queen (Elizabeth) and her emissaries was hence directed to despoil the Irish Catholics of their property and exterminate them."

Peter Lombard, Archbishop of Armagh, a contemporary writer, gives a terrible account of the diabolical cruelty exercised by the English soldiery in the province of Munster, of which he was a native: "Unheard of cruelties," he writes, "were committed on the inhabitants of Munster. Great companies of these natives, men, women and children, were often forced into castles and other houses, which were then set on fire; and if any of them attempted to escape from the flames, they were shot or stabbed by the soldiers who guarded them. It was a diversion to these monsters of men to take up infants on the points of their spears and whirl them about in their agony, excusing their cruelty by saying that if they were suffered to live they would become Popish rebels. Many of the women, too, were found hanging on trees with their children at their breasts, strangled with their mothers' hair."

It is sad to think that the poet Spenser, who came to Ireland in the train of Lord Gray, allied himself with the persecutors, so far; at least, as to glory in their deeds of blood and suggest means for the extirpation of the people. In cold blood he suggested, be it recorded to his eternal shame, the employment of numerous bands of troops "to tread down all that standeth before them, and lay on the ground all the stiff-necked people of that land;" and to insure success, he recommended that the war should be carried on in winter, "for then," he says, "the trees are bare and naked, which used to both clothe and house the kerne; the ground is cold and wet, which used to be his bedding; the air is sharp and bitter, to blow through his naked sides and legs; the kine are barren and without milk, which useth to be his only food, neither it they kill them will they yield him flesh, nor if he keep them will they give him food; besides, being all with calf, they will, through much chasing and driving, cast all their calves and lose their milk, which should relieve him next summer." (State of Ireland, page 161, Dublin Edition, 1809). He had already experience of the success of a like plan. He continues: "The end will be very short, although there should none of them fall by the sword... The proof whereof I saw sufficiently exampled in these late wars in Munster... Out of every corner of the woods and glens they (the people) came creeping forth upon their hands, for their legs could not bear them; they looked like anatomies of death; they spake like ghosts crying out of their graves; they did eat the dead carrions, happy where they could find them... and if they found a plot of watercresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as to a feast for the time, yet not able to continue there long withal, so that in a short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country was suddenly left void of man and beast."

An eye-witness (Mooney) of those scenes of misery says that so general was the devastation of the whole island, that "in most parts you would travel forty miles without meeting any human creature or even an animal, except birds and wild beasts." Hallam said that the sufferings of our country "had never been surpassed,"not even by those of the Jews in their destruction by Titus".

Only on the last day shall it be made known how many thousands died for the faith in Ireland between 1539, when the first of the martyrs suffered, down to 1691, when the profession of the Catholic faith was for the last time punished by death in that country.

The acts of three hundred and forty-four have been fully investigated by the Dublin Commission, and sent on, as I have already said, to Rome.

One Irishman, the Venerable Father John Travers, O. S. A., had suffered for the faith in England in 1535. His name and that of the Venerable Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, are not found in the Irish list, as their causes had already been introduced with other martyrs who suffered in England. The names of Archbishop Creagh and James Dowdall, who also died in that country, are likewise omitted, as their cause has been commenced there.

The list of martyrs is, as we have seen, a long one. It comprises Archbishops, Bishops, secular Priests, Augustinians, Carmelites, Cistercians. Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, one Premonstratensian, and fifty-six lay men and women. Readers of The Rosary will be glad to learn that the children of St. Dominic hold an honorable place in this glorious bead-roll. The names of one hundred and thirteen, of whom three were Sisters of the Third Order, are inscribed upon it.

Various were the forms of death inflicted upon the martyrs. That of Dr. Dermod O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, the first on the list, recalls the worst days of Nero and Domitian. The martyr was a distinguished rhetorician and canonist. For four years he taught philosophy in Louvain, and later on canon law in Rheims. In 1580 he was appointed to the metropolitan see of Cashel by Gregory XIII. "He was thrown into a dark and loathsome prison in 1583, and kept there bound in chains till the Holy Thursday of the following year. After spurning the offers of ecclesiastical preferment in case he should subscribe the oath of supremacy, he was bound to the trunk of a large tree, with his hands and body chained; his legs were then forced into long boots (reaching above the knees) which were filled with salt, butter, oil, turpentine and pitch; and thus encased, his limbs were stretched on an iron gate under which a fire was kindled, causing a terrible and cruel agony. For an hour he was subjected to this torture; as the pitch, oil and other materials boiled, not only did the skin fall off, but the flesh itself melted away; the muscles, veins and arteries were gradually contracted, and when the boots were pulled off, particles of the broiled flesh being torn off with them, not a small portion of the bones was left quite bare, presenting a horrid spectacle which no words can describe. Still the holy martyr, having his mind fixed on God and holy things, never uttered a word of complaint.'' (O'Sullivan, page 124). He was again thrown into a dark and loathsome prison, and after an interval of a few days he was, says Stanihurst. a Dublin citizen who was probably an eye-witness, or at least could learn from eye-witnesses, "hurried to a field not far from Dublin Castle at break of day lest the citizens should crowd to witness such cruelty, and there they hanged the innocent man from the gallows with a halter roughly made of twigs that his sufferings might be all the greater." At early dawn on Friday, the sixth of May, 1584, being in the sixty-fifth year of his age, he gave up his soul to God. His mangled remains were buried in the old churchyard of St. Kevin.

Six years earlier, Dr. Patrick O'Hely, O. S. F., Bishop of Mayo, and his chaplain, Father Con. O'Rourke, O. S. F., suffered cruel deaths for the faith. They were arrested soon after landing at Dingle, in the County Kerry, and brought to Kilmallock, County Limerick, where, after a mock trial before Drury, the President of Munster, having refused to take the oath of supremacy, they were subjected to frightful torture. They were first scourged, then placed on the rack; sharp points and needles were thrust between the nails and the flesh, their fingers were cut off, their arms and feet beaten with hammers, and their thigh-bones broken. Drury again offered them rich benefices and positions of honor if they would take the oath of supremacy. But they only spurned his offers. He then ordered them to be put to death. They were hanged with the girdles which they wore as part of their religious habit, on the twenty-second of August, 1578.

 It is worthy of note that immediately before he was executed the holy Bishop warned Drury that within a few days he should appear before the judgment seat of God. And so it came to pass. He was seized by a disease which baffled the skill of physicians. He cried aloud in his agony when dying that he was tormented by all the pains of hell. God's justice fell also visibly on some of the other judges who pronounced sentence against the Catholics.

In the following year Ireland gave a witness to the inviolability of the seal of confession. Father John O'Dowd, O. S. F., belonged to the Convent of Elphin, County Sligo. He had heard the confessions of some prisoners who were accused of conspiring against Queen Elizabeth. Being asked by the soldiers to reveal what he had heard in the confessional, he refused. He was then put to a cruel death. The soldiers knotted a cord round his head, and putting a piece of wood through it. slowly twisted it so tight that his eyes burst from their sockets. His skull was then broken and his brain crushed. All the time he was praying to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He died in 1579. "I have seen and examined ocular witnesses of this fact, who were then serving in that body of English soldiers," writes the famous Father L. Wadding, O. S. F.

Another of the martyrs, Terence Albert O'Brien, O. P., Bishop of Emly, was in the city of Limerick when it was beseiged by Ireton, Cromwell's son-in- law. He was offered a bribe of forty thousand gold crowns and a pass to any place he pleased if he would quit the city and cease to urge the citizens to resistance — all of which he refused, preferring to give his help to the Catholic people. When the city was taken he was put in chains and executed in the market-place, in the year 1651. Ireton, his judge, to whom he had foretold the swift vengeance of God, was soon after stricken by the plague, and died exclaiming that the murder of the Bishop was the cause of his death.

Amongst the laymen who suffered for the faith was John O'Connor. He was seized by the Cromwellian soldiers and publicly hanged in Tralee because he would not abjure his religion.

 Space will not allow me to give more instances of the martyrs' triumphs. I hope in a future article to give an account of the martyrdom of some of the children of St. Dominic.

From what I have written it will be seen how fierce and diabolical on the one side was the conduct of the persecutors, and how strenuous and glorious on the other was the struggle made by the children of St. Patrick for liberty of conscience. Irish Catholics and their descendants all the world over have great reason to be proud of the men and women who have handed down to them, pure and unsullied, the heritage of the faith. The Church in Ireland shines today with brighter lustre than at any other period of its history. It has come forth from the ordeal of blood and fire not only scatheless, but more vigorous than ever. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians." The persecution that swept away every vestige of Catholicity in other lands only served to make our forefathers, if possible, more devoted children of the Church. Let us, then, in the words of Scripture, "praise men of renown, and our fathers in their generation. ...Good things continue with their seed. Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. ... Let the people shew forth their wisdom, and the Church declare their praise." (Eccl. xliv, 14c.)

Note — There are three hundred and forty-four names on the list I have before me. But I believe others were subsequently added. Later on I hope to have the complete list and to be able to give the names of all the martyrs.

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Sunday 28 June 2020

Irish Martyrs for the Faith

I reprint below a contemporary review of Father Denis Murphy's 1896 book Our Martyrs from the National Library of Australia's digitized newspaper archive. The anonymous Victorian reviewer declares that 'after the lapse of years' reading of the brutality meted out to the martyrs 'creates peculiar sensations'. Father Murphy's book was reissued by Aid to the Church in Need last year, there is a scanned original but alas, poor-quality, copy available at the Internet Archive here.


The record of "Our Martyrs," by the late Rev. D. Murphy, S.J., covers the years 1536-1691, and in our matter-of-fact day this roll of the holy men and women who died barbarous deaths for the old Faith—bequeathing to us glorious traditions— reads like some awful fiction wrought around the bravery and the capacity for self-sacrifice and suffering of imaginary heroes and heroines. It affords searching illumination of the penal days. The heartless butcheries, the utter inhumanity, the gallant sacrifice, the savagery and heroism bred by the Penal Laws are vividly recalled, and it is appropriate that the text of that iniquitous code should be utilized as an introduction to the volume.

The description of the life and death of the venerable Oliver Plunkett, the famous Archbishop of Armagh, who was executed at Tyburn, July 1, 1681, and of Dermot O'Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, who, after cruel tortures, was hanged in a green near Dublin (1584) are examples of the more lengthened histories.

The martyrs given by Cork, Kerry, and Limerick were numerous, and after the lapse of years the reading creates peculiar sensations.

In 1578 Edmond Tanner, Bishop of Cork, suffered death in Dublin after eighteen month's imprisonment. He was a native of the city, and was appointed Bishop of Cork November 5, 1574. More than once he was hung up for two hours, while his hands were tied behind his back with a rope. There is also the record of Thomas Moeran, Dean of Cork, who "underwent great toil and hardships while the persecution was raging, in order to encourage the citizens of that very famous city." He is buried in a marble tomb outside the choir of St. Peter's Church, Cork.

On page 198 we find the following taken from Hueber's Martyrologium concerning Matthew O'Leyne, O.S.F.: — "When the English soldiers rushed madly into the convent of Kilcrea, on the River Bride, in Muskery, they seized one of the brethren, Matthew O'Leynn, an aged priest, as he was striving to escape from them across the river, and cruelly pierced him through with their spears, March 6, 1590."

There is a long account of the martyrdom of Francis O'Mohuny, O.S.F., a native of Cork, and a distinguished Franciscan, having been twice Minister-General of the Irish Province, Commissary - General, and, lastly, Guardian of the College of St. Anthony, at Louvain. While Guardian in Cork, in the year 1642, he was seized by the Governor of the city and cast into prison. First his fingers were burnt off entirely, and he was hanged twice, the miracle by which he survived the first hanging being minutely described.

There is this slight note about Francis Fitzgerald, O.S.F.—" He was born of a very illustrious family in Munster. In this year he was hanged in Cork by order of the rebels, because he had administered the Sacraments and offered the sacrifice of the Mass."

In preparing this record, Father Murphy did little more than put together the statement made by the best accessible authorities, and having selected from the most authentic accounts, he refers the reader to several other sources from which supplementary or corroborative evidence can be obtained.

IRISH MARTYRS FOR THE FAITH. (1896, December 4). Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166351136

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Saturday 27 June 2020

Several Irishmen on Roll of English Martyrs

There is a distinct group of Irish Martyrs that I am keen to ensure are not overlooked at the blog - those who were martyred outside this country. The most famous is probably Saint Oliver Plunkett who was martyred at Tyburn in London in 1681, but the newspaper report below on the beatification of one hundred and thirty six English martyrs in 1929 introduces us to some other, less well-known names. I look forward to researching and writing about all of them.



The final stage of the long process of beatification of 136 English martyrs who died for the Faith between 1537 and 1586 took place in St. Peter's on Sunday, December 15 (says the "Irish Weekly"). The immense crowd attending the ceremonies in the Basilica contained many English and Irish visitors. The Archbishops of Westminster and Armagh were present, and our correspondent records that Most Rev. Dr. MacRory was the recipient of many congratulations on his elevation to the purple.

The ceremonies included the public reading of the brief, the chanting of the Te Deum and the unveiling of the images of the beatified.

The event must be considered a fitting climax to a year full of memorable events for the Universal Church. It has seen the celebration of the sacerdotal Golden Jubilee of his Holiness the Pope, the celebration of the Centenary of Catholic Emancipation in these islands, and the reconciliation of the Italian State with the Holy See.

It was under the penal laws, whose relaxation a hundred years ago has been the cause of this year's rejoicings among the faithful in England, Scotland and Ireland, that many of those who now receive the title of Blessed suffered death.

Ireland, again, has a particular joy in Sunday's ceremonies. It was an Irish Priest who was the first to suffer imprisonment in England under the new regime of persecution, and the last to suffer death at Tyburn was our own Blessed Oliver Plunket.

There are several other Irishmen on the honoured roll of those now raised to the altar. These include:—

Father Ralph Corby, who was born near Dublin, and whose father went to England before the persecution;

Patrick Salmon, who was also a native of Dublin;

John Carey, who was apprehended with Father Cornelius at Chideock;

John Roche, who was done to death for helping Margaret Ward to effect the escape of a priest;

Father Charles Mahony, a member of the Irish Franciscan Province, who, when shipwrecked made his way to a Welsh port, was condemned at Denbigh for his Priesthood and was hanged, drawn and quartered.

James Dowdall, a Waterford merchant executed at Exeter;

Father John Travers, a Dublin Augustinian.

The causes of the English martyrs, of whom the original number presented was 360, began in the last, century and were presented to the Vatican in 1874. Leo XIII. approved the beatification of 54 in 1888 and of nine others in 1895. Of the remaining 297, the claim of 49 was considered not to have been proved, while 253 were admitted to the title of "venerable" — the first step in the process of canonisation. Of these 136 have now been beatified, and the Pope has expressly stated that the 116 who are left out of the decree must not be looked upon as ablati (or rejected), but dilati (delayed).

The roll of those now raised to the altar falls into three groups — 60 secular Priests, 30 members of religious orders and 46 laity, including, three women.

BEATIFICATION OF ENGLISH MARTYRS. (1930, January 31). Southern Cross (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved May 2, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article167046653

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Friday 26 June 2020

Twenty-Two Lay Martyrs of Munster

On this day, June 26, in the year 1580 Bishop Rothe records in his martyrology De Processu Martyriali that twenty-two elderly men were brutally killed in the village of Mohoriack in Munster.   His account was translated and reprinted by Myles O'Reilly in 1869. O'Reilly refers to Bishop Rothe as 'Philadelphus' since this was the pseudonym under which his 1619 catalogue of the martyrs was originally published:
Philadelphus mentions these as follows:
"I have also seen a catalogue in which are written the names of many lay Catholics who perished in consequence either of the fraud or calumnies of their enemies or the hatred of the orthodox faith which they professed. ... To these must be added from the same catalogue twenty-two old men, (Catholics) whom, being unable to fly, the fury of the soldiers burnt to death in the village of Mohoriack, in Munster, the 26th day of June, 1580."* — Philadelph., De Processu.

* Bruodin (lib. iii. cap. xx.) gives the name of the village as Ballymohun, in the diocese of Limerick.
Myles O'Reilly, 'Memorials of those who suffered for the Catholic Faith in Ireland in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries. Collected and edited from the Original Authorities,’ New York, 1869, p. 70.

The catalogue to which Bishop Rothe refers was the first of the martyrologies to be compiled, the Perbreve Compendium of the Irish Jesuit John Howlin.  Father Howlin went into exile in Portugal in the late 1580s and died there during an outbreak of plague in 1599. He drew up a catalogue of forty-five Irish martyrs and knew at least one, Margaret Bermingham, personally. The Howlin catalogue was reprinted by Cardinal Moran but not with an English translation. The Latin original presents a fuller account than that of Bishop Rothe, it begins by stressing the utter decrepitude of the elderly victims who are left behind in the village of Mohomack. The soldiers who come across them interrogate their victims about their religious allegiances and whether the Queen or the Pope is head of the Church. When our old men declare for the Pope they are taken to a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the doors are shut and they are burned alive:
In Momonia. 

Duodeviginti senes Catholici, impotentes, caeci et claudi, viri simplices, et idiotae, in oppido quod dicitur Mohomack ab exercitu Catholico relicti, ne militibus impedimento fuissent, ab haereticis inventi sunt; et de sua fide examinati fuerunt, qui omnes uno ore profitebantur fidem Catholicam. Interrogati utrum Papam an Reginam pro capite Ecclesiae haberent, Papam aiunt. Tunc absque mora in templum dicti oppidi Divo Nicolao dedicatam palea coopertum omnes conjecti sunt, portisque clausis, vivi cremati fuerunt, at ignis ardorem fugientes, tactuque exitum quaerentes hastarum pontibus, telorunique cuspidibus, ferina quadam immanitate iterum in ardentes flammas haeretici illos impellebant; adeo ut combusti non tam ex impietate perspicua quam ex telorum impulsione fuerint, et tandem non tanquam oculis capti sed quod summo artifici gratius videri solet, divino numine afflati, humanam, aerumnosamque vitam summis curis agitatam amiserunt. Animae, vero, per ignem probatae in gaudia coelestia intraverunt, anno post Christum natum 1580 die vero, Mensis Junii 26.

Rt. Rev. P.F. Moran, ed. Spicilegium Ossoriense: Being a Collection of Original Letters and Papers Illustrative of the History of the Irish Church from the Reformation to the Year 1800, First Series, (Dublin, 1874), 104-105.

The date of this incident would place our aged martyrs in the period of the Second Desmond Rebellion which began in July 1579. Their story illustrates some of the difficulties involved in investigating claims of martyrdom. The short account of Bishop Rothe might suggest that they are tragic victims of war. Father Howlin, by including their interrogation on the crucial question of royal versus papal supremacy, strengthens their portrayal as martyrs. As in the eyes of the Church a martyr is one who voluntarily embraces death for the sake of the faith, can we be entirely satisfied on the basis of this evidence that the test has been met? This is perhaps why the twenty-two old men are not among the cases which have been investigated formally by the Church and most probably never will be. I am proud to remember them here at the blog today and share the hope that their souls, tested and proven by fire, have now entered into the joys of heaven.

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Thursday 25 June 2020

A Chronological Index of the Irish Martyrs

Having looked at the series of papers by Father Denis Murphy S.J. in recent postings I now reproduce the chronological index to his 1896 book, Our Martyrs. Father Murphy's work covers the period 1535-1691 and it is interesting to compare his index with the catalogue of Irish martyrs submitted to Rome following the official Diocesan Inquiry held in Dublin 1904-1907. That list begins in 1540 and ends in 1711 and can be read here.  As the names on the official catalogue are given in their Latin version, this index may also help anyone struggling to identify the various individuals! The majority of the martyrs studied by Father Murphy were included in the official submission to Rome, but others, such as the Trinitarians of 1539, were omitted due to lack of firm evidence.


Ven. John Travers, O.S.A.

Trinitarians of Adare
Trinitarians of Dublin
Cornelius O'Neill, Bp. of Limerick and the Trinitarians of that city

Franciscans, Monaghan

Cistercians, St. Mary's, Dublin

Roger Congaill and Conor Mc Varra, O.S.F.

Daniel O’Duillian. O.S.F.

Dermot O'Mulronry, Br. Thomas, and Another

John O'Lochran, Edmund Fitzsimon, and Donagh O'Rouke. O.S.F.
Fergall Ward. O.S.F.

Thomas Coursy

Maurice Gibbon, Archbishop of Cashel
Hugh Lacy, B. of Limerick
Phelim O'Hara, Henry Delahoyde, O.S.P.
Edmund Tanner, Bishop of Cork
David O'Hurley, Dean of Emly
Patrick O'Hely, B. of Mayo, Con O’Rorke. O.S.F.
Thomas Moeran, Dean of Cork
Simon Lutrell, Archd. of Meath

Tadhg O'Daly, O.S.F.
John O'Dowd, O.S.F.

Edmond Mc Donnell, S.J.
Daniel O'Neilan, O.S.F.
Daniel Hinrechan, Philip O'See, and Maurice Scanlan, O.S.F.
Laurence O'Moore, Oliver Plunkett, and William Walsh
Gelasius O'Cullenan, O.Cist., Hugh Mulkeeran. O. Prem , and Eugene Crone
Tadhg Donald and John Hanly, O.S.F.

Richard Frinch
Nicholas Nugent, David Sutton, John Sutton, Thomas Eustace, John
Eustace, William Wogan, Robert Sherlock, John Clich, Thomas Netherfield and Robert Fitzgerald
Matthew Lamport
Robert Miller, Edward Cheevers, John O'Lahy, and Patrick Canavan
Nicholas Fitzgerald, O.Cist.
Maurice Eustace
Patrick Hayes
Daniel O'Hanan

John Wallis
Aeneas Penny
Donough O'Reddy
Roger Donellan, Charles Goran, Patrick O'Chillian, Patrick O'Kenna,
James Pillan, and Roger O'Hanlon, O.S.F.
Teigue O'Morachue, O.S.F.

Dermot O’Hurley, Arch, of Cashel
Thaddeus Clancy
Dame Eleanor Birmingham
John O'Daly, O.S.F.
Mr. Aylworth
Cistercians of Graiguenamanagh

Maurice Kinreghtin
Patrick O'Conor and Malachy O'Kelly, O.Cist
Ven. Richard Creagh, Arch. of Armagh
Cistercians of Nenay

Morrough O'Brien, B. Emly
Donagh O'Murheely, O.S.F.

John Cornelius, O.S.F.
Walter Faerall, O.S.F.

Tadhg O'Boyle O.S.F.
Sir Patrick Plunkett, Knight
Peter Miller
John O'Molloy, Cornelius Dogherty, and Geoffrey Ferall, O.S.F.
Peter Meyler

Matthew O'Leyne, O.S.F.
Christopher Roche

Terence Magennis, Magnus O'Todhry, Loughlin Oge Mac O Cadha, O.S.F

Edmund Magauran, Archb. of Armagh

Andrew Stitch
Ven. John Cornelius, S.J.; Ven. Terence Carey. and Ven. Patrick Salmon

Bernard Moriarty

Walter Ternan
John Stephens

James Dowdall
George Power. V.G.

Patrick O'Hea
Nicholas Young. P.P.?

Redmond O’Gallagher, B. of Derry
Donough O’Mollony
John O'Kelly
Donagh O'Cronin
Donough O’Faloy

Dominic Collins. S.J.
Forty priests

Bernard O'Kearolan
Eugene O'Gallagher and Bernard O'Trevir, O.Cist.

Neal O'Boyle. O.S.F.
Eugene MacEgan
Sir John Burke
Robert Lawlor, V.G.

Donough and John Olvin, O.P.

Patrick O'Derry, O.S.F.
Donough MacRedy, O.S.F.

John Lane

Cornelius O'Devany, B. of Down and Conor and Patrick O'Lochran, O.S.F.
Sir Patrick Purcell

Thomas Fitzgerald, O.S.F.

Patrick O'Dyry
John Honan O.S.F.
Cornelius Cronan. O.S.F.

James Eustace, O.Cist

Francis Tailler

John Cathan, O.S.F.

Edmund Dungan, B. of Down and Connor

Patrick Fleming and Matthew Hore. O.S.F.

Arthur M'Geoghegan, O.P.

John Meagh. S.J.

Peter Higgin, O.P.
Peter O'Higgin, O.P.
Edmund Hore and John Clancy
Fergal Ward, O.S.F.
Thomas Aquinas of Jesus, O.D.C.
George Halley, O.D.C.
Malachy Shiell, O.Cist., and Another
Cornelius O'Brien
Hilary Conroy, O.S.F.
Francis O'Mohuny, O.S.F.
Raymond Keoghy, O.P.
Stephen Pettit, O.P.
Cormac Egan
Philip Clery

Peter of the Mother of God, O.D.C.

Cornelius O'Connor and Eugene Daly. O.SS.Trin.
Christopher Donlevy, O.S.F.

Edmund Mulligan, O.Cist.
Malachy O'Queely, Arch. of Tuam
Tadhg O'Connell, O.S.A.
Henry White

The Massacre of Cashel
Richard Barry, O.P.
William Boyton, S.J.
Richard Butler, O.S.F.
Theobald Stapleton, Edward Stapleton, Theobald Stapleton, T. Morrissy, and two Vicars Choral
James Saul, O.S.F.

Gerald Fitzgerald and David Fox, O.P.
Andrew Hickey, O.S.F.
Donald O'Neaghen, O.P.
Bernard Horumley, O.S.F.

Dominic Dillon, O.P.
Richard Oveton, O.P.
Robert Netterville, S.J.
John Bathe, S.J., and Thomas Bathe
Peter Taaffe, O.S.A.
Eugene O'Teman, O.S.F.
John Esmond, Peter Stafford, Raymond Stafford, Paul Synnott, Richard Synnott, Didacus Cheevers, and Paul Rochfort, O.S.F.

Francis Fitzgerald, O.S.F.
Walter de Wallis and Antony Masteus, O.S.F.
James O'Reilly, O.P.
Boetius Egan, B. of Ross
Aeneas O'Cahill, O.P.
John Dormer, O.S.F.
Nicholas Ugan

Myler Magrath
William Lynch, William O'Connor, and Peter Costello, O.P.
Denis O'Neilan, O.S.F.
Tadhg O'Carighy, O.S.F.
Hugh M'Keon, O.S.F.
Roger O'Mara, O.S.F.
Daniel Clanchy, O.S.F.
Jeremiah O'Nereheny, O.S.F.
Bernard O'Ferall and Laurence O'Ferall, O.P.
Louis O'Ferall
Francis O'Sullevan, O.S.F.
Edmund O'Bern, O.P.
William Hickey, O.S.F.
Philip Flasbery
Charles O'Dowd
Donough O'Brien
Terence A. O'Brien, B. of Emly
Sir Geoffrey Galway
Lawrence Walsh
Thomas Strich
Sir Patrick Purcell
Geoffrey Baron
Dominic Fanning
Daniel O'Higgin
Vincent Gerald Dillon, O.P.
Tames Wolf, O.P.
Thomas O'Higgin, O.P.
Donough Dubh and James Moran, O.P.

John Kearney. O.S.F.
John O'CuIlen, O.S.F.
Nielan Lochran, O.S.F.
Antony O'Ferrall, O.S.F.
John O'Ferrall, O.S.F.
John O'Conor, Kerry
Roger Ormilius, P.P.
Hugh Carrighi, P.P.
Eugene O'Cahan, O.S.F.
Bernard M'Briody
Bonaventure de Burge, O.S.F.
Thaddeus O'Conor
Thaddeus O'Conor, Sligo
Con O'Roairk
Edward Butler
Bernard Fitzpatrick
Bridget Fitzpatrick
Antony Broder. O.S.F.
Cornelius M'Carthy
Tadhg Moriarty, O.P.
Daniel Delany, P.P.
Bernard O'Kelly, O.P.
Honoria Burke, O.P., and Honona Magaen, O.P.

Hugh M'Goill, O.P.
Bernard Connly, O.S.F.
Lady Roche
William Tirry and Others, O.S.A.
Daniel O'Brien, Luke Bergin, O.Cist.; and James Murchu
John O'Flaverly, O.P.

James O'Reilly, O.P.

Raymond Moore, O.P.

Charles Mahony, O.S.F.

Peter Talbot, Archb. of Dublin

Ven. Oliver Plunket, Archb. of Armagh

Stephen Kohel, O.S.F.
Gerald Fitzgibbon, O.P.

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Wednesday 24 June 2020

Our Martyrs IV

In the final paper Father Murphy concludes with a comprehensive and useful introduction to the historic written sources used in the cause of the Irish martyrs. As was noted in the previous post, some valuable corroborating testimony is provided by hostile witnesses, as was the case in the execution of Bishop Conor O'Devany. Yet it is in the writings of Irishmen at home and abroad as well as in the writings of other contemporary continental observers that the accounts of the suffering endured by the Irish martyrs was preserved.

OUR MARTYRS.—(Concluded.)

IN the April number of the I. E. Record I gave a brief sketch of a few of the earlier writers to whom we are indebted for the history of our martyrs. In resuming the subject now, I will begin with one who cannot be called a historian in any sense of the word; but yet his testimony on their behalf is of the highest value. This is a certain Barnaby Ryche. On the title-page of his book he is styled "Gentleman, servant to the King's Most Excellent Majesty." In what capacity he served his Majesty, we do not know; but from his narrative it is evident that he was an eye-witness of what he relates. At page 5 of his book, which, by the way, is in great part controversial, he speaks of the martyrdom of Cornelius O'Deveny, Bishop of Down and Connor, and of his companion in suffering, Cornelius O'Loughrane. After telling how "about two o'clock in the afternoon of February 1st, 1611, both were handed over to the Sheriff and placed on a small car, in which they were taken to the place of execution"—how "the spectators knelt down as the car passed by, and made such a lamentation after him as the heavens themselves resounded their outcries," he goes on to say:—

"The executioner had no sooner taken off the bishop's head, but the townsmen of Dublin began to flock about him. some taking the head up with pitying aspect accompanied with sobs and sighs ; some kissed it with so religious an appetite as ever they kissed the pax; some cut away all the hair from the head, which they preserved for a relic; some others were practisers to steal the head away, but the executioner gave notice to the sheriffs. Now, when he began to quarter the body, the women thronged about him, and happy was she that could get but her handkerchief dipped in the blood of the traitor; and the body being once dissevered into four quarters, they neither left finger nor toe, but they cut them off, and carried them away."

There is a copy of this book in the library of Trinity College.

The Analecta of Dr. Rothe is, undoubtedly, the most valuable record that we possess of the martyrs who suffered up to the end of the sixteenth century and during the first years of the seventeenth. Rothe was bishop of Ossory from 1618 to 1650. He died just at the time that Cromwell captured the city of Kilkenny. He was the author of several works, only one of which, unfortunately, has come down to us. Messingham says he was well versed in all sorts of learning, an elegant orator, a subtle philosopher, a profound divine, an eminent historian; and Ussher, too, bears willing testimony to his erudition. The work by which he is known to us bears the title of Analecta Sacra nova et mira de rebus Catholicorum in Hibernia pro fide et religione gestis. It is divided into three parts. The first was published at Cologne in 1616. It was reprinted the following year, considerably enlarged, with a second part added. The third part was published in 1619. The whole work, which had become very scarce, was republished in 1884 by Cardinal Moran. The first part treats chiefly of the laws made against Catholics during the reign of James I. The second part opens with an Epistola paraenetica addressed to Cornelius O'Deveny and others of the clergy and laity imprisoned for professing the faith. He was urged to write, he says, through pity for his countrymen then imprisoned by the heretics for professing the Catholic faith. The third part, styled De Processu Martyriali quorundam fidei pugilum in Hibernia, contains a list of the bishops, priests, both secular and regular, and of the laity, who up to that time had suffered martyrdom, imprisonment, and exile. The first in the catalogue is Richard Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, who died of poison in the Tower of London, October 14th, 1585; the last is Sir John Burke, of Brittas, hanged in Limerick, December 20th, 1607. The lives of some, as of Archbishops Creagh and O'Hurley, of Cornelius O'Deveny, and of Sir John Burke, are given at considerable length, and contain many details concerning them not to be found elsewhere. There is a copy of the third part of Rothe's work in the library of St. Patrick's College, Thurles. I got an imperfect copy of it at a sale that lately took place in Dublin.

Fr. Thomas Good, S.J., who taught a school in Limerick about 1580, published his Theatrum Catholicae et Protestantiae Religionis at Douay in 1620. The book is often referred to as containing a history of the sufferings of the Catholics which happened in his time. An extract from it containing an account of the death of Dermot O'Hurley is given in O'Molony's Anatomicum Examen. I cannot give any further details about the book, as no copy of it is to be found, so far as I know, in this country. Will some owner of it, who may read this, lend it to me for a few days, to make from it such extracts as may be useful in the case of our Irish martyrs ?

A writer named Copinger published a book in Paris in 1620, bearing the title, A Mnemosynum to the Catholics of Ireland. It is in great part an exhortation to the Irish people to bear with patience the hardships and trials they were then enduring for the faith. There is in it a short account of the martyrdom of Maurice Kent (recté Kinreghtan), who was put to death in Clonmel in 1585. There is a copy of this work in the library of Trinity College, wanting the title-page.

We are indebted to Philip O'Sullevan Beare for two works of great value to students of Irish history both sacred and profane, Historiae Catholicae Iberniae Compendium, and Decas Patriciana; the former published at Lisbon in 1621, the latter at Madrid in 1629. The late Dr. Kelly, of Maynooth, reprinted the Compendium in 1850, and in the preface which he put to it he gives an account of the author. When a mere boy he went to Spain, one of the crowd of Irish exiles who left Ireland soon after the defeat of the Irish under O'Neill and O'Donnell at Kinsale. In the archives at Loyola there is a long list of the Irish who came to Spain up to 1604 —"soldiers for the service, gentlemen of position, poor people, widows, young girls;" it is signed by F. Florence Conroy, later Archbishop of Tuam, who had accompanied Hugh Roe O'Donnell to Spain, and was present at his deathbed. Now he was using whatever influence he had at the Court of Philip III. to obtain a scanty livelihood for these poor exiles. In this list the name of O'Sullevan occurs frequently, for though others of the Irish who had taken arms received a pardon—which was of little avail to them later—there was no pardon for the O'Sullevans. He was educated at Compostella by an Irish priest, F. Synnott, of whom he speaks in terms of heartfelt gratitude, and later he entered the Spanish service. Though a soldier, he found time for literary work. He was a correspondent of F. Colgan, O.S.F., author of the Acta SS. Hiberniae, who speaks of him as "doctrina clarissimus," and as having "deserved well of his native country and of its saints." Besides a list of Irish martyrs, he gives a very detailed account of the manner of death of some of them. There is a fine copy of the original edition of each of these works in the library of Maynooth College.

Molanus, probably O'Mullane, a native of Cork, who is set down on the title-page of his work as " Public Professor of the History of Eloquence," published a work bearing the title of Idea Togatae Constantiae in Paris in 1629. It contains a list of nearly one hundred Irish martyrs. A good part of the book is taken up with the Life of Francis Tailler, a citizen of Dublin, who died in prison in 1621, where he had been for seven years, because he professed the Catholic faith. Appended to the Life is a document duly signed by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Thomas Fleming, and several of the clergy secular and regular, bearing witness to the great virtues of Francis Tailler and to his constancy in professing the true faith, from which he never departed by a hair's breadth, though in his old age he was shut up in prison and subjected to all kinds of hardships. There is a copy of this book in the library of Trinity College.

In the great storehouse of Irish history, The Annals of the Four Masters, one will naturally expect to find much about the martyrs. The references to them, however, are few and of a general kind. Under the date of 1537, they tell of "the new heresy that had just sprung up in England, and of the destruction of the monasteries from Aran of the Saints to the Iccian Sea, and of the persecution endured even then, such that scarcely had there ever come so great from Rome." Again, under the date 1540, they say "the monastery of Monaghan was destroyed, and the guardian and some of the friars beheaded." And under 1601, they tell of the death of Redmond O'Gallagher, " who was killed by the English in Oireacht ui Cathain." But their testimony in reference to the death of Cornelius O'Deveny is most valuable. He was taken prisoner by the English, they say, and offered riches and rewards if he would go over to their heresy; but he despised them for an everlasting kingdom. He was released then, but he was taken again, when Sir Arthur Chichester was Lord Justice of Ireland, and was put to death. "He was first beheaded, and then his members were cut in quarters, and his flesh mangled."

"There was not a Christian in the land of Ireland, whose heart did not shudder within him at the horror of the martyrdom which this chaste, wise divine, and the perfect and truly meek, righteous man suffered for the reward of his soul. The Christians who were then in Dublin, contended with each other to see which of them should have one of his limbs; and not only his limbs, but they had fine linen in readiness, to prevent his blood from falling on the ground; for they were convinced that he was one of the holy martyrs of the Lord."

And they go on to tell of the fortitude of his companion :—

" Gilla Patrick O'Loughrane, a distinguished priest, was with the Bishop at this time, when the English had decided that both these should be put to death. The Bishop was afraid that the priest might be seized with horror and dismay at the sight of the tortures about to be inflicted upon his own body, so that he requested the executioner to put the priest to death before himself. The priest said that he need not be in dread on his account, it was not right an honourable Bishop should be without a priest to attend him. This he did, for he consented and suffered the like torture to be inflicted on him for the sake of the kingdom of heaven for his soul."

Fr. Peter Redan, S. J., Professor of Sacred Scripture in the Irish College at Salamanca, published at Lyons, in 1651, the first volume of his Commentary on the Canonical Books of the Machabees. Speaking of the College of Salamanca, he says :—"Of the many colleges which are an ornament to this University, the Irish College is the smallest, and, considering its revenues, the poorest. Yet, during the fifty years that it has been in the hands of the Jesuits, it has had over three hundred and seventy students, of whom not a few were remarkable for their holiness and learning." He goes on to enumerate the archbishops and bishops, the teachers of theology, the famous writers, the many religious whom it sent forth from it, and he adds :—"Thirty of them suffered martyrdom for the faith, some of them by hanging or beheading, and others by imprisonment, starvation, and hardships of different kinds. Of that great number during the long and fierce persecution, not one denied or betrayed the faith ever." The second volume of this work is in manuscript in the library of the University of Salamanca. It too contains some names of sufferers for the faith, not to be found in other works. The first volume is in the library of Trinity College.

Fr. Moryson, O.S.F., in his Threnodia Hiberno-Catholica, published at Innsbruck, in 1659, gives an account of some martyrs not mentioned by earlier writers, who had been put to death shortly before he wrote. He gives a short account of each, and of the manner of his death. The book is a very rare one, the only copy I know of being that in the Grenville Library in the British Museum. But the portion dealing with the Irish Martyrs will be found in the notes to O'Connell's Memoir of Ireland.

Dr. John Lynch, Archdeacon of Tuam, has left several very valuable works on Irish history. Of these his reply to the calumnies of Giraldus Cambrensis is the best known. In his Alithinologia, published at St. Malo, in 1664, to which he added a Supplement in 1671, besides the martyrs whose history is given by other writers, he gives the names of some who suffered shortly before he wrote, as of Luke Bergin, a Cistercian, who was put to death at Wexford, in 1655, for the sole reason that he was a priest; of Nicholas Nugent, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and others who were executed under pretence that they favoured Lord Baltinglas's rising; and of Thomas Fleming, a citizen of Drogheda, who died in prison because he would not conform to the new creed. A copy of the Alithinologia is in the library of Trinity College; one of the Supplement in that of St. Patrick's College, Waterford. The Library of Trinity College contains Dr. Lynch's MS. work, De Praesulibus Hiberniae, to which reference is often made. It makes mention of others besides bishops who suffered death for the faith, and it describes several miracles said to have been wrought at the tomb of Dermot O'Hurley in St. Kevin's churchyard, where he was buried.

Bruodin's, or MacBriody's, work, bearing the title Propugnaculum Catholica Veritatis, published at Prague, in 1669, gives the most complete history of our martyrs which we possess. The author was a native of Clare. It contains a brief history of the so-called Reformation in England and Ireland, a short list of English martyrs, and a somewhat detailed account of the Irish martyrs up to the time he wrote. His sketch of Sir John Burke is very full, and contains many details which are not found elsewhere. He speaks of acts of cruelty done to Catholics, of which he was himself witness, as the cutting off the ears of a respectable citizen of Limerick, because a priest was found hiding in his house. This work is so rare that a certain bookseller, in one of his late catalogues, says there are only three copies of the book in existence; and, in consequence, demands for one of the three in his possession the very modest sum of £30. There are, at least, three copies in Dublin—an excellent one in the library of the Royal Irish Academy.

The same author, under the name of O'Mollony, published another work in 1671, which is a sort of supplement to the Propugnaculum, and gives the names of several martyrs omitted in the first work. It gives at some length the life and death of Fr. John Kearny, O.S.F., a native of Cashel, who was put to death at Clonmel in 1653. The book is primarily a reply to a work written by Carve, chaplain to a regiment in the imperial army, who was ashamed of his Irish descent, and claimed to be sprung from the Carew family. It contains also some very interesting facts about Myler Magrath, the apostate bishop of Down, and later Protestant Archbishop of Cashel, "that wicked Milerus," as he is often called in the State Papers by some members of his own creed, which are not as much known as they ought to be; as, for instance, that Myler in early life suffered for the faith, having his ears cut off, his nose slit, and needles thrust under the nails of his hands. He yielded to his tortures, and abandoned the faith. Elizabeth hearing of his perversion, gave him the archbishopric of Cashel. His conscience troubled him sorely during the whole of his apostacy. To still it somewhat, he would at times do a kindly turn to the Catholics, as when he wrote to his would-be wife from Greenwich, bidding her notify to Dr. Creagh, Bishop of Cork, that an order was about to be issued to seize him. Some eighteen months before his death he repented of his misdeeds and of the scandal he had given, and passed the remainder of his life doing rigid penance. He was received back into the Franciscan Order by Father Mathew, then Provincial, and died having made his peace with God. Perhaps it is to this change at the end of his life that reference is made obscurely in his epitaph in Cashel cathedral.

In Fr. Archdeacon's Theologia Tripartita, a sort of hand book of theology for priests then employed on the Irish mission, there is at the end a Dedicatio, addressed to them, in which he speaks of the sufferings of the Irish clergy and people up to that time. He then gives a Life of Peter Talbot, Archbishop of Dublin, who died in prison in Dublin, in 1680, the crime laid to his charge being that for which Oliver Plunkett suffered death, namely, "participation in a popish plot." This book was first published at Louvain in 1671. It has been frequently reprinted.

A few words about another, and a more numerous class of books, different in some respects from those already mentioned. I refer to works written by Religious containing the history of their respective Orders, which make mention of Irish martyrs belonging to them. Such are the well-known work, Annales Minorum Ordinum Franciscanorum, of Fr. Luke Wadding, published at Rome in 1625-1654 ; Van der Sterre's Echo Sti. Norberti, at Antwerp, in 1629; Henriquez's Menologium Cisterciense, at Antwerp, in 1630; Malpaeus's Palma Fidei S. Ordinis Prcedicatorum, in the same place, in 1635; Imago Societatis Jesu, in the same place, in 1640 ; Hartry's Triumphalia Chronologica, a MS. written in 1640, and the Supplement de Cisterciensum Hibernorum Viris Illustribus, by the same author, in 1652, printed last year from the original in the possession of the Most Rev. Dr. Croke; Fr. Philip's Decor Carmeli, published at Lyons, in 1655 ; O'Daly's Initium, &c, familia Geraldinorum Desmoniae Comitum, at Lisbon, in 1655; Alegambe's Mortes Illustres Societatis Jesu, at Rome, in 1658; Tanner's Societatis Jesu usque ad sanguinis et Vita profusionem militans, at Prague, in 1575; O'Heyne's Epilogus Ordinis Pradicatorum in Hibernia, at Louvain, in 1706; Lopez's Noticias Historicas del Celeste Orden de la Trinidad, Madrid, 1714; Jouvency's Historia Societatis Jesu, at Rome, in 1720; and lastly, the MS. of Fr. Ward, in the library of the Franciscan Fathers, Merchants'-quay, Synopsis Provinciae Hibernia.

Among the documents in the archives of the Irish College of Salamanca, there are several of great importance on the subject of our martyrs. Cardinal Moran has published some of these in his Spicilegium Ossoriense. There are others, too, as the account of the martyrdom of Maurice Eustace, in Dublin, in 1581, which is given in great detail. The manuscript history, too, of the Irish College of Seville, now in the archives of Salamanca, and giving the history of that college from 1612 to 1763, contains some interesting facts: for instance, an account of the martyrdom of a Kerry priest. The marginal reference to this is "Illustre Martyrium D. Cornelii M'Carthi."

"In May of this year (1652) took place the famous martyrdom of Cornelius Carty, of the province of Munster and bishopric of Ardfert. He entered this college in the year 1635. He left this college for the Irish mission about 1642. He laboured like a true apostle in Ireland, converting heretics, and administering the sacraments. He was executed by order of the heretical governor of the county of Kerry, because he was a Catholic priest and a defender of the Catholic faith."

There are several other works by authors of other countries, in which passing mention is made of our martyrs; as, for instance, by Bosius, de Signis Ecclesiae, Antwerp, 1581; and by Harpsfield, in his Concertatio Ecclesiae Cath. in Anglia, published in 1588. If special mention is not made of them oftener, the reason, no doubt, is that foreign writers such as Baronius, Suarez, and Bellarmine, were accustomed to include Ireland under the common designation of "Anglia," and all the more because of the persecution taking place in both countries at the same time and in virtue of what they supposed to be the same laws.

D. Murphy, S.J.

Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol XIII (1892), 720-729.

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