After yesterday's post I have been reflecting a little bit more on our Irish martyrs and the times they lived in. It seems the Church in
To appreciate our rich past, though, we can look to our martyrs and their dedication to the Catholic faith, to the Mass, to Our Lady and the Pope. If I am posting about our martyrs I have to include a member of my own Order - the Servant of God, Br Angelus of
, Discalced Carmelite, martyred in 1642 at Siddon, Co. Meath, just a few miles from my presbytery here - in the next parish. He was born George Halley in St Joseph around the year 1622. He discerned a vocation to the priesthood and religious life and sought to enter the Discalced Carmelites. He had to come to Herefordshire, England to do his studies, to the House of Studies in Ireland Drogheda (my former parish).
He was known as a model student who had a deep regard for the poor. When Irish insurgents laid siege to the town of
in 1642, many fled but Angelus stayed to help the people. However he was arrested by Royalist forces and given a prison sentence. He may have escaped, or served the term which was to be seven months, but he is known to left Drogheda Drogheda in early August 1642. He came to the castle in Siddon seeking refuge, however after three days the castle was surrounded by Royalists who were trying to quash rebellion in . Angelus, the owner of the castle, a Catholic, Anthony Nugent, and some nuns who were also taking refuge there, were all arrested. All except Angelus were released - he was well known as a zealous Catholic, and it was for this that he was condemned to death. On the 15th August he was shot and then run through with a bayonet to finish him off. His cause is presently being considered in County Meath : his beatification will be a moment of great joy for us Discalced Carmelites in Rome and Ireland , which interestingly is still the one province. Br Angelus's martyrdom is important in that it reminds us here in England that our martyrs died for their faith and not their being Irish. Ireland
That point is important since in
we too often associate Catholicism with Nationalism here - that lethal little cocktail is a product of 19th century Nationalism and came into almost quasi-legal force with the foundation of the Irish state. In my opinion it has been a curse to the Church in Ireland because it has made the Church almost a department of state and it has, in a sense diluted the reality of the Church's universal nature in the eyes of many here - hence the ease with which some Irish Catholics can adopt a "them and us" attitude to Rome. Ireland
One of our martyrs who certainly undermines the Catholic-Nationalist view is the Servant of God, Archbishop Richard Creagh. Now here is a man of great stature and holiness, with an exciting life and indeed a martyr of importance. Richard was born in
Limerick in 1523. He came from a family of merchants and so, when he finished his schooling that was the occupation he took up. He made many voyages to and gained a reputation for honesty. However God had other plans. After a successful business trip Richard was due to set sail from Spain on a particular day. He thought he had time for Mass before the ship left, so he attended Mass in the port church. However when he came out after Mass had finished he saw his ship already out at sea: he had missed it. However at that moment a violent gale blew up, struck the ship causing it to founder and killing all on board. Already reflecting on vocation, Richard saw this as a sign to renounce his merchant life. Spain
He studied in
and was ordained priest, returning to Louvain Limerick to minister where he taught for a number of years. Recognising his abilities, the Papal nuncio recommended him as bishop for the diocese of Limerick: Richard, in his humility turned it down. He was offered Cashel: again Richard turned it down. The nuncio was determined, and so when the Archdiocese of Armagh became vacant he nominated Richard again, but this time he persuaded St Pope Pius V to make Richard take it under obedience: Richard had no choice and left Limerick for to be consecrated. When he returned in 1564 he fell foul of a local leader, Shane O'Neill who, while being Catholic, despised the Rome . Richard, who wanted to keep faith and politics separated disagreed and made his loyalty to the crown known. This infuriated O'Neill who burned down England Armagh cathedral as a punishment.
Despite his loyalty, Richard was arrested a number of times - his position and ardent faith did not endear him to reformers. It was when he was travelling down to
Limerick for a visit in 1567 that he was arrested and brought to where he was imprisoned in the London . Put on trial, he was accused of adhering to the authority of the Pope over the Queen's and of supporting the traitor Shane O'Neill (ironic). His trial dragged on for years, all the while he was languishing in the Tower. An attempt to undermine his morals was made with a false accusation of sexual abuse made against him by the jailer's daughter. The accusation was investigated and found to be false. Left in the prison because the authorities feared the veneration the Irish had for this courageous and holy bishop, he died in the Tower as a result of his sufferings in either late 1586 or early 1587 and was buried inside the walls of the fortress. His cause is presently being examined, excellent biography here. Tower of London
In case you are wondering, most of my information comes from a book on the Irish martyrs, Our Martyrs, written by Dennis Murphy, SJ, published in 1896 and recently republished. Well worth reading.