October 31st: Blessed Dominic Collins, SJ

Blessed Dominic Collins, SJ

Born: 1566
Died: October 31, 1602
Beatified : September 27, 1992

Dominic Collins was born in the seaport town of Youghal, in County Cork, Ireland. His family was well established and respected and both his father and brother were mayors of Youghal. As Elizabeth 1 was queen of England and Ireland, Anglicanism was established as the official religion and Irish Catholics periodically suffered persecution. Although the laws were not fully enforced yet in Youghal, young Collins, like other young catholic men there had few careers open to them. He chose to leave Ireland to seek his fortune in France.

So at twenty, Collins arrived in France and for the first three years worked as a servant in various inns in Brittany before he was enlisted in the army of the Duke of Mercoeur, a member of the Catholic League who was fighting against the Huguenots in Brittany. Dominic served with distinction during his nine-year military career in France and was made captain of the Calvary and later military governor when he succeeded in recovering the land from the Huguenots.

Although Dominic received a monthly pension of twenty-five crowns from his service to King Philip of Spain, he soon realized that soldiering was not what he wanted. He decided to do something else with his life. In the Lent of 1598, he met the Irish Jesuit Thomas White who introduced him to the Jesuit superiors in Salamanca after hearing Dominic’s desire to do something more with his life. Although he was thirty-two, the Jesuit provincial thought it was wise to delay his entrance, perhaps to test the strength of his vocation. Dominic finally entered the Jesuit novitiate in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain as a brother in Dec 1598 and took his vows in Feb 1601. Seven months later, Dominic, now Bro Collins, was assigned as the companion and assistant to Fr James Archer, an Irish Jesuit who was sent by the king as chaplain of the Spanish expedition to assist Catholics in Ireland.

The two Jesuits sailed in Sep 1601 on different vessels which became separated during a storm. When Bro Collins finally reached Ireland in Dec, the English army had laid siege to the town. The Irish attacked at dawn on Christmas Eve but was defeated. Bro Collins found Fr Archer in Feb, 1602 and together the two Jesuits proceeded to Dunboy Castle, which the Irish had recently regained. Some months later Bro Collins found himself ( Fr Archer had left for Spain to persuade the king to send reinforcements) besieged inside Dunboy Castle with 143 defenders. With the landing on June 6 of huge English forces, Dunboy Castle towers began to topple from heavy bombardment. The Irish defenders suffered huge casualties and surrendered. Bro Collins emerged and gave himself up while the remaining seventy-seven defenders with the exception of two were subsequently executed in the castle courtyard.

Bro Collins was later imprisoned in Cork and despite several offers to spare his life if he would divulge information about Catholics and to renounce his vocation as a Jesuit and join the established Church, he flatly refused. He also rejected the offer of an honorable position in the Government’s military and also Protestant ministers’ offers of ecclesiastical preferment if he would apostatize. Even his own relatives tried persuading him to renounce the faith by outwardly conforming to the new religion but remain a Catholic at heart he had to reject them.

Bro Collins was finally condemned to death and on October 31, 1602. He was taken to Youghal, his hometown and hanged. Before he ascended the scaffold to be hanged, he addressed the crowd in Irish and English, saying that he was happy to die fro his faith. He was so cheerful that an English officer remarked, “He is going to his death as eagerly as I would go to a banquet.” Bro Collins overheard him and replied, “For this cause I would be willing to die not once but a thousand deaths.”

Bro Dominic Collins, together with sixteen other martyrs of Ireland, who died between 1579 and 1654, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 27, 1992 .