Today I’m attending the pro-life Rally in Dublin.
Today is also the memorial of St Oliver Plunkett (*1625 +1681) and it is fitting to remember his heroic life. He was archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland from 1668, at a time when the country was in a state of civil and religious disorder after the interventions of Oliver Cromwell. He persevered for ten years in his effort to ameliorate this state of affairs, until the discovery of a non-existent “Popish Plot” against the English government (invented and revealed by Titus Oates, who implicated many before he was executed for his part in it) gave the authorities an excuse to act against many prominent Catholics. Plunkett was arrested in Ireland but taken to London for trial; one of his companions was saved by being appointed as Bavarian Ambassador to London and therefore acquiring diplomatic immunity, but for Plunkett there was no such escape, and he was hanged at Tyburn, cheating his executioners by dying before he could be ceremonially disembowelled.
In the Office of Readings we have an excerpt of a letter written on death row. It should help us not to fear death and be willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to remain faithful to Jesus.
“Sentence of death was passed against me on the fifteenth. It has not caused me the least terror or deprived me of even a quarter of an hour’s sleep. I am as innocent of all treason as the child born yesterday. As for my character, profession and function, I did own it publicly, and that being also a motive of my death, I die most willingly. And being the first among the Irish, I shall, with God’s grace, give good example to the others not to fear death. I expect daily to be brought to the place of execution where my bowels are to be cut out and burned before my face, and then my head to be cut off. What speech I will have at my death will be sent to you. If I had obtained sufficient time to have brought my witnesses from Ireland, I think I should have defended myself as regards these romances of treason; but it was not granted to me, and I was brought to my trial destitute of all legal ways of defence.”