Thursday, November 14, 2013

St. Lawrence O'Toole

The saint of the day for November 14 is St. Lawrence O'Toole, a Benedictine abbot.

St. Lawrence O'Toole was born around 1128 in County Kildare, Ireland.  His father was the chief of Hy Murray, and his mother one of the Clan O'Byrne.

At the age of 10, Lawrence was given up as a hostage to King Mac Murehad of Leinster, who treated him with such inhumanity that his father obliged the King to turn him over to the Bishop of Glendalough.

In 1140, Lawrence obtained permission to enter the monastic school of Glendalough; he studied there for thirteen years and became known for his piety and learning. So great was his reputation in the eyes of the community that on the death of Abbot Dunlaing, at the young age of 25, he was unanimously called to preside over the Abbey of St. Kevin. He governed with wonderful virtue and prudence.

In 1161, Lawrence was unanimously chosen to fill the new metropolitan See of Dublin. As Archbishop, he reformed much of the administration and clerical life in his diocese, worked to restore and rebuild Christ Church cathedral and accepted the imposition onto Ireland of the English form of liturgy in 1172.

Noted for his personal austerity, he wore a hair shirt under his ecclesiastical robes, made an annual 40 day retreat in Saint Kevin's cave, never ate meat, fasted every Friday, and never drank wine - though he would color his water to make it look like wine to avoid bringing attention to himself at table. During the second siege of Dublin in 1170, he acted as a peacemaker and mediator.

In 1171, he travelled to Canterbury, England on diocesan business. While preparing for Mass there he was attacked by a lunatic who wanted to make Lawrence another Saint Thomas Beckett. Everyone in the church thought Lawrence had been killed by the severe blow to the head. Instead he asked for water, blessed it, and washed the wound; the bleeding stopped, and the archbishop celebrated Mass.

In 1175 Henry II of England became offended with Roderic, the monarch of Ireland, and St.Lawrence undertook another journey to England to negotiate a reconciliation between them. Henry was so moved by his piety, charity, and prudence that he granted him everything he asked, and left the whole negotiation to his discretion.

St. Lawrence is the patron of the archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland.

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