Saint of the Week: St. Oliver Plunkett, Professor, Bishop & Martyr (July 11)
Oliver was born in County Meath, Ireland, in 1625. His father was a baron, and Oliver was well-educated by his cousin, the abbot of a Cistercian abbey. When he and a few young companions were en route to study in the Irish seminary in Rome, they were pursued by two English privateer warships. Because of the persecution of Catholics, the young men prayed to St. Francis for safety, and after a storm cleared, the warships were nowhere to be found.
Oliver was ordained, and became a professor of theology and of apologetics in Rome. He used his earnings to provide shelter for beggars, and cleaned & fed them. Pope Clement IX named Fr. Oliver the Archbishop of Armagh, and while the position was dangerous, Oliver accepted and returned to his homeland. In one of his letters, Oliver recounted that for months he adopted the disguise of “Captain William Browne,” with a wig, sword and a pair of pistols, and on one occasion even broke into song in a tavern so as not to reveal his true identity.
Although Catholic schools were outlawed, Oliver established a school for both Catholics and Protestants. He fought nine times in court to allow its existence, but was closed by authorities after only 3 ½ years. In 1673, political authorities ordered Catholic bishops to leave Ireland, but Archbishop Plunkett refused, and pleaded his fellow bishops to stay, saying, “For if the captains fly, it is in vain to exhort the single soldiers to stand in battle.”
Oliver Plunkett was accused of treason, and after an unjust trial, sentenced: “You shall be drawn through the City of London to Tyburn, there you shall be hanged by the neck but cut down before you are dead, your bowels shall be taken out and burnt before your face, your head shall be cut off and your body be divided into four quarters.” Before his martyrdom, Oliver begged God’s forgiveness upon himself and his executioners.
St. Oliver Plunkett, pray for us! To learn more, visit SaintOliverPlunkett.com