Dominican Saints 101: Bl. Terence O’Brien and Bl. Peter O’Higgins
October 29, 2012
In 1992, Bl. John Paul II beatified 17 Irish martyrs, two of whom were Dominicans: Bl. Terence Albert O’Brien (1600-1651) and Bl. Peter O’Higgins (c. 1602-1642) (feast – Oct. 30). Both gave tremendous witness to the true faith, and neither were willing to compromise for anything less. Bl. Peter O’Higgins (also known as Peter Higgins), was sent to refound the Dominican community in Naas. He was truly a man of God, even stopping the attempted execution of an Anglican minister by Catholics. When his town was taken by the English forces, he willingly surrendered himself since he was innocent of all crimes. He was then found guilty of not accepting the English King as the head of the Church and martyred. Bl. Terence O’Brien, Provincial of the Irish Province at the time, recounted the martyrdom to the General Chapter in 1644. Bl. Peter had been offered the chance to keep his life if he simply renounced his Catholic faith. He asked that the terms be written down and brought to him at the gallows where he was to be hanged. On the day of his martyrdom, the conditions for his life were presented to him, and he stated:
So here the condition on which I am granted my life. They want me to deny my religion. I spurn their offer. I die a Catholic and a Dominican priest. I forgive from my heart all who have conspired to bring about my death.
Bl. Terence Albert, only a few years later, was also offered the chance to give his life in imitation of Christ crucified. In refusing to accept the English crown’s authority over the Church and all that went with it, he remained faithful to Rome while supporting the Catholics in Limerick. He too was offered the chance to renounce the faith after his arrest. He too denied that chance to deny the truths of the faith. The Acts of the General Chapter in 1656 stated that, “he went with joy to the place of execution and there with a serene countenance, turning to his Catholic friends, who stood in the crowd inconsolable and weeping.” Once he arrived at the gallows, he gave his own final testament and prayer. Here, he stated:
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 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; I shall most willingly drink of it as deep as he pleases, and enter into this Sea, and I pass through it, in the way that he shall be pleased to lead me.
May their witness be a support for us in times of persecution, and may the Lord bestow on us the same fidelity to truth. We humbly beseech the mercy of your majesty, almighty and merciful God, that, as you have poured the knowledge of your Only Begotten Son into the hearts of the peoples by the preaching of the blessed Martyrs Terence Albert O’Brien and Peter O’Higgins, so, through their intercession, we may be made steadfast in the faith. Through Christ our Lord.