Even More about Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien

October 30 is Bl. Terence Albert/Toirdhealbhach O’Brien’s memorial day, and the day of his martyrdom! He was the Bishop of Emly and the titular bishop of Calama, in Numidia.

https://www.dib.ie/biography/obrien-terence-albert-muiris-o-briain-aradh-a6496 is his page at the Dictionary of Irish Biography. Good stuff with footnotes.

De Processu Martyriali blog has a great article about him by Reginald Walsh, O. P., copied over from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 1894 (“Some of Our Martyrs: Terence Albert O’Brien and Companions”) We learn that he was also called Frater Albertus Brian, Frater Bernardinus, and Albertus Bernardinus. A man of many names!

The treatment of his body is alluded to, fairly often, but this article explains it. His hanged body was left hanging from the gallows for three hours, and various Roundhead soldiers played pinata with it, with their muskets. At the end, his body was apparently beat up to unrecognizability.

However, his head was cut off and spiked up on the city walls, apparently at one of the river gates. And here’s a new fact — the head stayed incorrupt for at least four years, according to a contemporary writer. (I don’t know what happened to his head after that.)

A podcast interview with a guy writing a new book about Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien! Coool! (Roundtower Podcasts: Oct. 25, 2021 – “Discussing Blessed Terence Albert O’Brien with Mr. Paul McGregor.”)

I’m really impressed by this guy, Paul McGregor. He’s a convert from London, now living in Limerick, and very influenced by our Nashville Dominicans who serve over there.

Stained glass window depicting Bl. Terence Albert, from St. Ailbe’s in Emly.

I guess that Bl. Terence Albert is getting more popular, because I’ve just seen my first advertisement for stuff related to him, from a Catholic store. It’s a “healing oil.”

Apparently this Irish store’s procedure is that they find churches with altars dedicated to various saints, and then they bring their oils there and sit them on the altar for a while. Which isn’t wrong… but it’s not really enough to make it a sacramental. Calling the oils “dedicated” to a saint (as they do) is probably about as far as you can go, unless there’s relics in the altar related to that saint. (In which case, you could argue that the oils become third-class/fourth-class relics.)

But it’s not bad. It’s the sort of thing you do for yourself, if you go on a pilgrimage. And rubbing an oil on yourself isn’t going to hurt you, if the ingredients aren’t bad. It comes with a book of “Irish Blessings.” (And if the oil were a sacramental, then you’d be buying the book and getting the sacramental as a gift. Because blessed sacramentals and/or relics cannot be sold, only given away.)

They do have some fairly unusual/obscure saints too, like St. Charles of Mount Argus (who reminds me a lot of Bl. Solanus Casey).

They’ve even got some for a guy who’s not even a Servant of God yet (um… bold move, Cotton), a Wisconsin priest called Fr. Peter Rookey who served in Ireland, Italy, and the US, and who apparently had a healing gift. Here’s his cause’s website – he just died in 2014. Work with the cause was apparently assigned to an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, Jeffrey Grob. (The oil doesn’t seem shady; it’s just that the store is a little quick off the starting line to offer merch.)

They’ve also got pashmina prayer shawls, which they acknowledge are not blessed, but just prayed over by laypeople. But they come with a nice box and a nice scripture verse and flower, and they sure as heck have some obscure saints. (St. Luke Baanabukintu, patron saint of amnesia and memory loss?) So if you want to give somebody a really nerdy Irish and Catholic gift, that might do the trick.

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