Wednesday, July 1, 2015


The last catholic to die for his faith at Tyburn, Oliver Plunkett was born in 1629 at Loughcrew, in County Meath.  In 1647, he went to study for the priesthood in the Irish College in Rome.  On January 1st 1654 he was ordained priest. Due to religious persecution in his native land, it was not possible for him to return to Ireland.  St Oliver taught in Rome until 1669, when he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and primate of Ireland.  Archbishop Plunkett soon established himself as a man of peace and, with religious fervor, set about visiting his people establishing schools, ordaining priests and confirming thousands.
1673 brought a renewal of religious persecution and bishops were banned by edict.  Archbishop Plunkett went into hiding, suffering a great deal from cold and hunger.  His many letters show his determination not to abandon his flock but to remain a faithful shepherd.  He thanked God "Who gave us the grace to suffer for the chair of Peter".  The persecution eased a little and he was able to move more openly among his people.

In December 1679 he was arrested and falsely charged with conspiring against the state.  St Oliver was imprisoned in Dublin Castle, where he remained until October 1680 when he was transferred to Newgate prison in London.  His time in Newgate was one of immense suffering.  From October 1680 until May 1681 he was kept in solitary confinement. It proved to be a time of purification, from which he emerged with new strength and courage. The charge against him was high treason.

His trial started on 8th June 1681.  It was a travesty of justice. He was accused of being a key player in the Popish Plot to stir up rebellion in Ireland.  The chief prosecution witnesses were three priests Hugh Duffy and John McMoyer(Franciscans) and Edmund Murphy a priest of his own diocese.  Oliver was found guilty on perjured evidence and sentenced to death.

A trusted friend of Oliver's, Father Taurus Corker wrote movingly of Oliver's last days:
   "He certainly knew God Almighty had chosen him for the crown and dignity of martyrdom, he continually studied how to divest himself of himself, and become more and more an entire pleasing and perfect holocaust"
Oliver went peacefully to the place of his execution, where he delivered a most moving speech.  He professed his innocence of all the charges against him, and forgave his enemies, especially the priests who had testified against him.
The sentence was carried out at Tyburn on 1st July 1681.  St Oliver Plunkett was beatified on 23rd May 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and canonized on October 12th 1975  by  Pope  Paul  V1.

      (Skull of St Oliver Plunkett)                         

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