The (Probably Not) Execution Speech of Bl. Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien

UPDATE: The pamphlet apparently is padded out with some Anglican material from Archbishop Laud’s execution. Oops. And here’s still more from the Harleian Miscellany. Oooooops. It looks like C.P. Meehan’s account is still the better one. Pretty much everything in this pamphlet is just an adaptation from the Anglican Laud pamphlet.

Oddly enough, the Harleian Miscellany’s pamphlet talks about Laud’s speech being transcribed by “John Hinde,” and the Collectanea Hibernica pamphlet from the British Museum is titled “The Humble Petition of James Hind.” So maybe this may be blamed on the filing system at the printer’s house?


Here’s a new-to-me account of Blessed Terence Albert O’Brien’s execution speech, from a pamphlet published on November 21, 1651 in London. O’Brien was martyred on Halloween of that year. It doesn’t mention his prophecy/diagnosis of General Ireton’s death eight days later, but it has a lot of good stuff in it. I’ve modernized the spelling and punctuation a bit.

Anyway, onward to the pamphlet’s text!

“When they were brought to the said place [a gallows set up in the marketplace at Limerick Castle], the Bishop was the first that tasted of the Cup; and coming to the foot of the ladder, he kissed it, saying,

‘Good people,

‘This is a very uncomfortable place for me to deliver myself unto you; but I beseech you pardon my failings, and the rather, by reason of the sad occasion that hath brought me hither. Indeed, I have been long in my race, and how I have looked unto Jesus the Author and finisher of my faith, is best known to Him. I am now come to the end of my race, which I find to be a death of shame, but the shame must be despised, or there is no coming to the right hand of God. Jesus despised the shame for me upon the Cross, and God forbid but I should despise the shame for Him upon the gallows. I am going apace, as you see, toward the Red Sea, and my feet are upon the very brinks of it; an argument. I hope, that God is bringing me to the Land of promise, for that was the way by which of old He led His people.

‘But before they came to the Sea, he instituted a passover for them: a Lamb it was, but it was to be eaten with very sour herbs, as in the 12th chapter of Exodus. I shall obey, and labor to digest the sour herbs as well as the Lamb, and I shall remember that it is the Lord’s Passover. I shall not think of the herbs nor be angry with the hands that gathered them, but look up only to Him who instituted the one and governeth the other. For men can have no more power over me than that which is given them from above, and although I am denied mercy here on earth, yet I doubt not to receive it in Heaven.

‘I am not in love with this passage through the Red Sea, for I have the weakness and infirmity of flesh and blood in me; and I have prayed as my Savior taught me and exampled me: “Ut transiret calix ista,” “That this cup might pass away” from me. But since it is not that my will may, His will be done; and I shall most willingly drink of it as deep as He pleases, and enter into this Sea, I; and I pass through it, in the way that He shall be pleased to lead me.

‘And yet, good people, it would be remembered that when the Servants of God, old Israel, were in this boisterous Sea, and Aaron with them, the Egyptians which persecuted them and did in a manner drive them into that Sea, were drowned in the same waters, while they were in pursuit of them. I know my God whom I serve is as able to deliver me from this Sea of blood as He was to deliver the Three Children from the furnace. [Dan. 3] And I most humbly thank my Savior for it.

‘My resolution is now as theirs was then. Their resolution was: they would not change their principles, nor worship the image which the King had set up. Nor shall I the imaginations which the People are setting up. Neither will I forsake the Temple and Truth of God to follow the bleating of Jeroboam’s calves in Dan and in Bethel. [1 Kings 12:26-30 – referring to idols of golden calves.]

‘And I pray God bless all this people, and open their eyes that they may see the right way; for if it fall out that the blind lead the blind, doubtless they will fall both in the ditch.

‘For myself, I am (and I acknowledge it in all humility) a most grievous sinner, and therefore I cannot doubt but that God hath mercy in store for me, a poor penitent, as well as for other sinners. I have upon this sad occasion ransacked every corner of my heart; and yet, I thank God I have not found any of my sins that are there, any sins now deserving death by any known law. And I thank God, though the weight of the sentence lie very hard on me, yet I am as quiet within (I thank Christ for it!) as I ever was in my life.

‘I shall hasten to go out of this miserable life, for I am not willing to be tedious, and I beseech you, as many as are within hearing, observe me. I was born and baptized in the bosom of the Church of Rome, the ancient and true Church; and in that profession I have ever since lived, and in the same I now die.

‘As touching my engagement in arms, I did it in two respects. First, for the preservation of my principles and tenets. And secondly, for the establishing of the King, and the rest of the Royal Issue, in their just rights and privileges.

‘I will not enlarge myself any further; I have done. I forgive all the world, all and every of these bitter enemies, or others whatsoever they have been, which have any ways prosecuted me in this kind. I humbly desire to be forgiven first of God, and then of every man, whether I have offended him or no, if he do but conceive that I have. Lord, do Thou forgive me! And I beg forgiveness of Him; and so I heartily desire you to join with me in prayer:

‘O Eternal God and merciful Father,
look down upon me in mercy.
In the riches and fullness of all Thy mercies,
look down upon me;
but not till Thou hast nailed my sins
to the Cross of Christ.
Look upon me,
but not till Thou hast bathed me
in the Blood of Christ,
that so the punishment that is due to my sins
may pass away and go over me.

‘I heartily beseech Thee,
give me now in this great instant:
full patience,
proportionable comfort,
a heart ready to die:
for Thine honor,
the King’s happiness,
and the Church’s preservation.

‘And my zeal to these (far from arrogancy be it spoken) is all the sin (human frailty excepted, and all incidents thereunto) which is yet known of me in this particular, for which I have come to suffer. I say “in this particular” of treason.

‘But otherwise, my sins are many and great. Lord, pardon them all, and those especially (whatsoever they may be) which have drawn down this present judgment upon me.

‘And when Thou hast given me strength to bear it, then do with me as seems best in Thine own eyes, and carry me through death, that I may look upon it in what visage soever it shall appear to me.

‘O Lord, I beseech Thee, give grace of repentance to all people that have a thirst for blood; but if they will not repent, then scatter their devices so, and such as are, or shall be, contrary to: the glory of Thy great Name, the truth and sincerity of the ancient Catholic religion, the establishing of the Royal Posterity in their just rights and liberties, the preservation of this poor Church in her truth, peace, and patrimony; and the settlement of this distracted and distressed people under their ancient laws and in their native liberties.

‘And when Thou hast done this in mere mercy for them, O Lord, fill their hearts with thankfulness and with religious dutiful obedience to Thee and Thy Commandments, all their days.

‘So Amen, Lord Jesus; and I beseech Thee receive my soul to mercy.’

When he had finished his prayer, he took his leave of some friends there present, saying, “God’s blessing and His mercy be upon you all;” and so went up to the ladder, where he again prayed as followeth.

‘Lord, I am coming as fast as I can. I know I must pass through the shadow of death before I can come to see Thee, but it is but “umbra mortis”, a mere _shadow_ of death, a little darkness upon nature. But Thou, by Thy merits and Passion, hast broke the jaws of death. So Lord, receive my soul, and have mercy upon me.’

No sooner had he uttered these expressions, but immediately he was turned off the ladder.

1 Comment

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One response to “The (Probably Not) Execution Speech of Bl. Bishop Terence Albert O’Brien

  1. Genevieve Kineke

    Savour this

    Sent from my iPad

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