Although the proper feast day of St Oliver Plunkett is July 1st, the anniversary of his martyrdom at Tyburn in 1681, we are celebrating a day early this year as the Feast of the Sacred Heart falls on Friday. We think the church in Ireland today is in bad shape but in his time Oliver was the only bishop living in Ireland. Our parish in Co Derry is called after him. Tradition has it that he ordained 14 men at the one time in this district. The year is not known.
There is a powerful story about St Oliver that I have often heard but I don't know if it is true or not. On the morning of July 1 he was to be hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in London. St Oliver wanted to celebrate Mass before he died and told his servant to waken him at 4am to allow him time to say Mass and prepare for death. He was facing a most agonising death in a few hours but he slept so soundly that his servant had to waken him at 4am, such was his faith in a loving God who would look after him. Oliver Plunkett was the last man martyred in England.
His story bears witness to the fact that no matter how much the church is persecuted it shall always survive because it is of God and cannot be defeated. His relics, including his head and many bones at to be seen in a church in Drogheda, Co Louth.