20 Jun 2015

20th June - Feast of the Irish Martyrs

From Catholicireland.net:


The canonisation of Oliver Plunkett in 1975 brought an awareness of the other men and women who died for the Catholic faith in the 16th and 17th centuries. On 22nd September 1992 Pope John Paul II proclaimed a representative group from Ireland as martyrs and beatified them. Patrick Duffy documents their stories.

What is a martyr? 
Originally, it’s a Greek word meaning “witness”. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter, speaking to those in Jerusalem at Pentecost, claimed he and all the apostles were “martyrs” i.e. witnesses, in this case to Jesus’s resurrection. Later the word came to mean a person who followed the example of Christ and gave up their lives rather than deny their faith.

The canonisation of English and Irish Martyrs
Henry VIII’s rejection of the Pope’s authority in 1534 led to the setting up of a state Church in England and in Ireland. In 1560 the Act of Supremacy made Queen Elizabeth the supreme head of the Church in England and Ireland. So it became a treasonable offence to refuse to acknowledge the English monarch as head of the Church and many Catholics were put to death for their faith in both countries.

Forty English martyrs were canonised in 1970 and Oliver Plunkett was canonised in 1975. In 1992 a representative seventeen Irish martyrs, chosen from a list of almost three hundred who died for their faith in the 16th and 17th centuries, were beatified by Pope John Paul II. The amount of information we know about these seventeen varies. About some, such as Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley of Cashel, we know quite a lot; about others, such as the Wexford sailors, we know little more than their names and the fact of their death.

Here are their names in the chronological order of their deaths:

1. Bishop Patrick O’Healy and Father Cornelius O’Rourke, Franciscans: tortured and hanged at Kilmallock 22nd August 1579

2. The Wexford Martyrs: Matthew Lambert and sailors – Robert Tyler, Edward Cheevers and Patrick Cavanagh: died in Wexford 1581

3. Bishop Dermot O’Hurley: tortured and hanged at Hoggen Green (now College Green), Dublin, 20th June 1584

4. Margaret Ball: lay woman, died in prison 1584

5. Maurice Kenraghty (or MacEnraghty): secular priest, hanged at Clonmel on 20th April 1585

6. Dominic Collins: Jesuit brother, hanged in Youghal 1602

7. Bishop Conor O’Devany and Father Patrick O’Loughran: Franciscans, hanged 6th February 1612

8. Francis Taylor of Swords, lay man, Lord Mayor of Dublin: died in prison 1621

9. Father Peter Higgins, Dominican, Prior of Naas: hanged at Hoggen Green, Dublin 23rd March 1642

10. Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien, Dominican: hanged and beheaded at Gallow’s Green, Limerick 30th October 1651

11. John Kearney, Franciscan, hanged 11th March 1653

12. William Tirry, Augustinian, hanged 2nd May 1654

13. Others

Read about each of the martyrs HERE.

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