St. Lawrence O'Toole, Benedictine Peacemaker

The saint of the day for November 14 is St. Lawrence (also spelled Laurence) O'Toole, a Benedictine abbot and archbishop of Dublin.

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 taken hostage by King Mac Murehad of Leinster, who treated him with such cruelty that his father convinced 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 chosen to supervise the Abbey of St. Kevin.

In 1161, Lawrence was chosen as Archbishop of Dublin. In his new position, he reformed much of the administration and clerical life in his diocese, worked to restore and rebuild Christ Church cathedral, and accepted the English form of liturgy in 1172.

Known for his personal self-denial, he wore a hair shirt under his clerical robes, made an annual 40 day retreat in Saint Kevin's cave, never ate meat, fasted every Friday, and never drank wine - although he would color his water to make it look like wine to avoid attracting attention to himself during meals. Throughout 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 turn Lawrence into 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, King Henry II of England became upset with Roderic, the monarch of Ireland, and St. Lawrence once again journeyed to England to negotiate a compromise between them. Henry was so moved by his piety, charity, and prudence that he cooperated totally with Lawrence.

Lawrence participated in the Lateran Council in 1179, and returned as legate for Ireland. While on yet another mission to King Henry II of England, Lawrence died at Eu, Normandy, France. He was canonized in 1225 by Pope Honorius III.

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


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