Saturday 25 March 2023

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

On March 25, 1643, Brother Peter of the Mother of God, the last of the three Irish Carmelite martyrs, was hanged in Dublin, the city of his birth. The account below has been taken from the 1897 book Carmel in Ireland by Father James P Rushe, the Order's official historian. Like his fellow martyrs, Father Thomas Aquinas of Saint Teresa and Brother Angelus of Saint Joseph, who had been martyred at Drogheda in the previous year, Brother Peter was always regarded as a martyr by his confreres who recorded an account of his sufferings and had a portrait of him hung at the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites at Piacenza. The narrative of his martyrdom presents a picture of a man of simple yet profound faith who, when faced with the prospect of death, found a courage he had not hitherto possessed. It demonstrates how fitting was his name in religion as Brother Peter of the Mother of God (we do not know his family name), for at his execution on the Feast of the Annunciation he drew strength from the Rosary and confounded the Protestant preachers sent to harangue him by quoting the Magnificat: 

III. Brother Peter of the Mother of God.  

The lay-brother, the third of our Confessors, was Peter of the Mother of God. He was received into the Order at Dublin, his native place. It was his vocation to sanctify himself by solely attending to the domestic affairs of the monastery, never ambitioning the state of his brethren who had been called to undertake the duties of the priesthood. He knew it was not necessary to pass through the schools in order to acquire the science of the Saints: the study of his crucifix and rosary-beads was sufficient for him throughout life. And we shall see that with the knowledge thus obtained he was able to refute the sophistries of those who tried to rob him of his faith. He was most zealous in the discharge of his various offices; prudent and pious; and always cherished a very tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

After the Teresian Friary in Cook Street had been suppressed, Brother Peter gladly remained in the city to provide for the temporal wants of the Fathers who were daily exposed to the horrors of the persecution. Having rendered them invaluable service in their perilous mission, his reward was the martyr's crown. He was captured by the Puritans early in March of the year 1643. Almost worn out by past toils and privations, his health gave way completely under the cruel treatment he received in prison, so that it was only a relief to him when told his sufferings should cease on the Feast of the Annunciation, the day assigned for his death. Before the end, however, he was haunted by a dread of that shameful doom. It was the conflict between nature and grace, and very fierce while it lasted, but, through the intercession of his patroness, the Queen of Carmel, he gained the victory. His heart was now filled with peace; he gloried in the thought of his approaching struggle. This marvellous change was brought about by the special grace mercifully granted to the weak when their burden is heavy to bear. Hitherto Brother Peter had been timorous and despondent, now he possessed the martyr's confidence and strength. Those who had seen him in affliction wanted him to appeal to the pity of his persecutors, but he begged them to spare him their kindly remonstrances, as he was himself most eager to die. There were some Catholics among the prisoners, and these he implored to unite with him in praying God to pardon his cowardice, and grant him the needful courage to persevere. He had but one desire, he told them, to prove himself a loyal son of Holy Church — worthy of the habit which he wore. Accordingly, the whole night preceding his execution was passed by him and his friends in the recital of the Litany, Rosary, and other prayers.
He seemed very happy in the morning as the appointed time drew near. He continued still more earnestly to call upon the Mother of God, thanking Her, in the name of all men, for having been so humbly obedient to the Divine Will at the Annunciation. On hearing him speak thus one of the heretical ministers — several had come to try to pervert the heroic Confessor — rebuked him for attributing such honour to Our Blessed Lady. Brother Peter reminded his tormentor how Mary had been praised by the Holy Ghost in her own inspired words of the “Magnificat”; and this answer gave the Puritan a subject for serious reflection until they arrived at the scaffold, which had been set up in a most frequented part of Dublin to intimidate and mortify the Faithful. But the pious people regarded this as the “shame of the Cross in which Christians glory”; instead of producing fear it afforded them new constancy and hope, recalling to their minds the reward of those who die in the cause of religion. When about to ascend the steps, Brother Peter prostrated himself to the ground in sign of his unworthiness to rank with the Confessors of the faith; he also kissed the halter with great reverence, making in the meantime fervent acts of contrition, and renewing his religious profession. The Puritans still persisted in telling him that it was folly to sacrifice himself for such convictions; he replied that there was a wisdom which the world could not understand. And in the thirty-third year of his age, on the 25th of March 1643, he suffered a violent death — the last proof of the firmness of his own belief.
Braving the wrath of their persecutors, the Catholics took possession of the Confessor’s remains, and bore them with all honour to the grave. In fact, they seemed to ambition that Teresian lay-brother’s terrible fate; but the Puritans were satisfied, for the time being, with the revenge which they had taken on one whom the Faithful had long revered for his spirit of self-sacrificing zeal.
 Rev James P Rushe O.D.C., Carmel in Ireland,  (London, 1897), 100-103.

Brother Peter of the Mother of God is number 150 on the Official List of Irish Martyrs (1918) whose causes were submitted for official consideration. No further progress has been made to date.


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