Historically, Ireland’s shores have been no stranger to bloodshed for faith. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this tension was especially palpable. As people heard Mass in secret hideaways and travelled for miles to meet with fugitive priests, they were also fighting a government who wanted to force the Protestant state religion upon them.
From this time of suffering and sacrifice, nearly 460 individuals were put forth as dying for the faith. Yet of that number, only 17 were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1992, posing the question, in a time of intertwined religious and political upheaval, how do we define a martyr?
Former president Mary McAleese seeks to uncover just that. From Franciscan friars and bishops to diocesan priests and a single laywoman – what made these 17 individuals stand apart from the rest? With a confident retelling of their inspiring stories, we discover that until very recently our divisions and wounds were not so dissimilar from theirs.
About the Author
Mary McAleese was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1951. In 1975, she became the Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin, and in 1987 she was appointed Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. She was elected President of Ireland in 1997, making her the first woman in the world to succeed another woman as president. After stepping down as President in 2011, she earned a Licentiate and PhD in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Reviewed in The Irish Catholic newspaper (2022)
Witnesses to history: What the Irish martyrs died and lived for