My Martyred Relatives

I didn’t realize that so many of my clansmen were martyrs.

One is known only from the reminiscences of a fellow Trinitarian monk: “Tadhg O’Brien of Thomond” was dragged apart in the sight of the viceroy, on Bombriste Bridge between Limerick and Kilmallock.

Two were Bishops of Emly. The first, Maurice (Murtagh) O’Brien, died in prison in Dublin in 1586 .

The second, Terence (Toirdhealbhach) Albert O’Brien, a Dominican, was executed in Limerick on October 31, 1651. He was the last bishop of Emly, the see founded by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.or he was officially beatified in 1992 by Pope John Paul II as part of a group of Irish martyrs. His memorial is October 30. (Nobody told me MY FAMILY HAS A FEAST DAY!!!!!)

One was Cornelius O'Brien — and that's a family name indeed — in 1642. He was hanged by parliamentarians on board a ship on the Shannon, with the Franciscan Fergal Ward.

One was Donagh O'Brien, who was burned alive in 1651.

One was Daniel O'Brien, dean of Ferns. He was hanged on April 14, 1655 with his companions: Luke Bergin, a Cistercian monk, and James Murchu.

Six O’Brien martyrs.

(And a lot of O’Briens who went over to the government side, but we’ll ignore that for the moment since I’ve known about that for quite a while. I’m busy goggling and doing the non-liturgical stepdance of glee!)

UPDATE: Seven. Fr. John “Jack/Jackie” O’Brien, a Columban Missionary, was one of those martyred during the Korean War by the Communists.

UPDATE: Martyrs Omitted by Foxe mentions a couple more Catholic martyrs: Donatus O’Brien (p. 188) and Cornelius O’Brien, lord of Caringh, County Kerry (p. 189). Donatus is Donagh from above, and Cornelius is the above guy who got hanged on shipboard.

It also paraphrases O’Daly as quoted by Moran, and says that General Ireton offered Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien forty thousand pounds sterling and free passage, if he would just stop preaching to the people not to surrender Limerick. (Which meant not just political surrender, but accepting Puritan Protestantism in place of Catholicism.) O’Brien sent word back that he refused the offer, and that was when Bishop O’Brien was put on the list not to receive amnesty even if Limerick did surrender. The 200 ecclesiastics in Limerick voted to try to help O’Brien and the other twenty not to be given amnesty, and for their pains they were also put on the list. O’Brien offered to surrender himself to die if all the others would be taken off the death list, but Ireton rejected this.

It says that Moran then references The History of the Geraldenes, p. 204 and following; and De Burgh’s Hib. Dom., p. 489. After that, there’s a last speech and the summoning of Ireton to judgment. So there seems to be a fair amount of information about Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien that I haven’t seen yet. After the hanging, Blessed Terence Albert’s head was exposed on a pole, on the tower above Limerick’s great gate (along with the heads of Major General Purcell and the previous Mayor of Limerick, Thomas Stritch.)

I have to say that the Bishop of Emly impresses me more and more, the more I find out about him.

“Moran” is A Historical Sketch of the Persecutions Suffered by the Catholics of Ireland under the Rule of Cromwell and the Puritans, by Patrick Francis Moran, D.D., Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney. The online version is the 1907 revised edition.

Moran notes (p. 431 – 432) that Cornelius O’Brien was arrested at the castle of Glanens, which was owned by John Geraldine, by a band of people under Forbes. He and Father Ferghall Ward (O.F.) were hanged simultaneously from the masthead of a ship (on opposite sides), their corpses kept hanging there until high tide, and then their bodies cut loose to fall into the river. (The ship was at the exact middle of the River Shannon, which was pretty wide and deep at that point.) This was at the end of October, 1642.

So anybody named Shannon or Sineann has the name of a deathsite of martyrs, a holy river….

Moran also talks about Fr. Daniel O’Brien, the Dean of Ferns. He studied and was ordained at the Irish College in Compostela, Spain, and loved Spain and Spanish people’s customs and piety so much that his nickname was “Father Daniel the Spaniard.” He was a tireless and much loved priest, and very successful in persuading Protestants to become Catholic.

After the city of Wexford’s capture and massacre, he managed to stay on the loose and continue his ministry while in hiding at a nobleman’s house. Seeing a lot of Catholics sneaking over there, and suspecting they were going to Mass, the local Puritan forces snuck over to the house in a boat and got the place surrounded. They then threatened death to everyone in the house unless they gave up the priest. Old Father O’Brien came out at once, and said to the officer, “Why do you trouble these good people who have done nothing wrong? I am the priest who has offered up the Holy Sacrifice; if that is a fault, it is all mine.”

The officer seized O’Brien and took all his stuff, including the Mass gear. He took the chalice, filled it with ale, and took a big swig. Immediately he was struck with a horrible fit and collapsed, crying out and clawing at himself. Pitying him, Fr. O’Brien blessed him with the Sign of the Cross, and the officer was freed of his pain. The officer gave back the chalice and left right away, leaving the priest there, and not letting the soldiers hurt or touch him.

O’Brien was arrested again afterwards, thrown in prison, released, and then arrested and thrown in prison again. He was condemned to death in 1655, along with Fr. Luke Bergin (a Cistercian) and Fr. James Murchu/Murphy (a secular priest).

The jury of 12 Protestants bravely returned a verdict of Not Proved. This was rejected by the judge, who announced that no crime was more heinous than being guilty of being a priest, and pronounced them Guilty against the jury’s decision. The citizens of Wexford (all new Protestants brought in by Cromwell after Wexford’s previous population was massacred) petitioned for the priests not to be hanged inside Wexford’s walls, but this was rejected too, and the priests were set to be hanged in the same marketplace where the massacre had been done.

Fr. O’Brien was practically unable to walk at that point, but hearing the news of his condemnation gave him such joy that he was filled with energy and strength; and the next day, he walked to the scaffold all by himself. He spoke to the crowd and then was executed, full of joy and love, on April 14th, 1655 — Holy Saturday. His companions also died bravely.

All three priests were buried in the ruins of the Franciscan monastery outside the walls of Wexford. A heavenly light was seen circling around the place for many nights.

Moran quotes this from Lynch’s History of the Irish Bishops.

Moran also quotes Abelly’s Life of St. Vincent [de Paul], who sent several Irish missionary priests to Ireland. One of the first three he sent was Fr. Gerald O’Brien, who apparently wasn’t caught or banished the whole time.

Moran (pp. 419 – 420) says that Donatus O’Brien (called Donnchadh, probably) was a layman of 64 (which was old, in his day and social class). He had a safe conduct to do business, but was shot by a Protestant knight out of pure meanness (and odium fidei). He went over to a little abandoned hut to pray and die, but a soldier threw fire on the roof and burned down the hut with him in it. This was somewhere in Thomond in 1651.


1 Comment

Filed under Causes for Sainthood, Church, Family

One response to “My Martyred Relatives

  1. Pingback: Cardinal Keith O’Brien: “Wear proudly… the cross of Christ… each and every day” « Aliens in This World

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