On The Irish Martyrs
Pope John Paul II’s words on the beatification of the Irish Martyrs in 1992.
The invitation of the Liturgy finds in us today, gathered in the solemn scenery of this square, a particularly prompt and joyful response. How can we not praise the Lord in the face of the exhilarating spectacle of the new Blesseds? Of these men and women, who courageously gave their witness to Christ, deserving of being offered by the Church to the admiration and imitation of all the faithful? Each of them can repeat with Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me”(Is 61:1): the Spirit of the Risen Christ, who, over the centuries, continues to live and work in believers, to push them towards the full implementation of the Gospel message. “The spirit of the Lord is upon me”: aware of this, the new Blesseds have always counted on God’s help, striving to “strive for justice, piety, faith, charity, patience, meekness”(1 Tm 6:11), so as to “preserve the commandment unblemished and irreproachable”(1 Tm 6:14). They offered themselves to God and to others in martyrdom and consecrated virginity. The Church is pleased today to recognize that these children of hers “fought the good battle of faith” and “reached eternal life”(1 Tm 6:12).
And how can we fail to sing the praises of the seventeen Irish Martyrs being beatified today? Dermot O’Hurley, Margaret Bermingham Ball, Francis Taylor and their fourteen companions were faithful witnesses who remained steadfast in their allegiance to Christ and his Church to the point of extreme hardship and the final sacrifice of their lives.
All sectors of God’s people are represented among these seventeen Servants of God: Bishops, priests both secular and religious, a religious brother and six lay people, including Margaret Bermingham Ball, a woman of extraordinary integrity who, together with the physical trials she had to endure, underwent the agony of being betrayed through the complicity of her own son.
We admire them for their personal courage. We thank them for the example of their fidelity in difficult circumstances, a fidelity which is more than an example: it is a heritage of the Irish people and a responsibility to be lived up to in every age.
In a decisive hour, a whole people chose to stand firmly by its covenant with God: “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do”. Along with Saint Oliver Plunkett, the new Beati constitute but a small part of the host of Irish Martyrs of Penal Times. The religious and political turmoil through which these witnesses lived was marked by severe intolerance on every side. Their victory lay precisely in going to death with no hatred in their hearts. They lived and died for Love. Many of them publicly forgave all those who had contributed in any way to their martyrdom.
The Martyrs’ significance for today lies in the fact that their testimony shatters the vain claim to live one’s life or to build a model of society without an integral vision of our human destiny, without reference to our eternal calling, without transcendence. The Martyrs exhort succeeding generations of Irish men and women: “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called … keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
To the Martyrs’ intercession I commend the whole people of Ireland: their hopes and joys, their needs and difficulties. May everyone rejoices in the honour paid to these witnesses to the faith. God sustained them in their trials. He comforted them and granted them the crown of victory. May he also sustain those who work for reconciliation and peace in Ireland today!
Blessed Irish Martyrs, intercede for the beloved Irish people!