Javascript is currently disabled. This site requires Javascript to function correctly. Please enable Javascript in your browser!

Saint Lawrence O’Toole

Saint Lawrence O’Toole
  • Century: 12th Century
  • Patronage: Archdiocese of Dublin
  • Feast Day: November 14th

St. Lawrence O’Toole was born Lorcan Ua Tuathail, in Castledermot, Ireland in 1128.  He was one of four sons of an O’Byrne princess.  By the time of St. Lawrence’s birth, his father was subordinate to the new kings of Leinster.  At the age of 10 he was sent to Diarmait as a hostage for his father.  He was imprisoned for two years in extreme austerity and barely given enough to live on. 

One result of his confinement was the strengthening of his wish to enter the religious life.  On his being released, he remained in Glendalough.  He entered the religious life and in time became the Abbot of Glendalough, at the age of 26.  He was well regarded by both the community in Glendalough and its secular neighbors for his profound sanctity and charity to the poor.  

When he was thirty-two, he was unanimously elected as Archbishop of Dublin, at the Synod of Clane.  He was the first Irishman to be appointed to the See of this town ruled by the Danes and Norwegians.  It is worth noting that this nomination was backed by the High King, the Community at Glendalough, and also the Clergy and population of Dublin itself.  He saw the people through a severe famine in Dublin, which struck the city.  He also played a prominent part in the Irish Church Reform Movement of the 12th century, as well as rebuilding Christ Church Cathedral, several parishes, and promoted the use of Gregorian Chant.  

He left Ireland in 1179 to attend the Third Council of the Lateran in Rome, along with five other Bishops.  He received a papal bull from Pope Alexander III, confirming the rights and privileges of the See of Dublin.  Pope Alexander also named him as papal legate.  On his return to Ireland, he kept up the pace of reform, that as many as 150 clerics were withdrawn from their offices for various abuses and sent to Rome.  In 1180 he let Ireland for the last time.  After a stay at the Monastery of Abingdon, south Oxford, he fell ill and was conveyed to St. Victor’s Abbey at Eu.  He was well known as an ascetic, wore a hair shirt, never ate meat, and fasted every Friday on bread and water.  He passed away soon after, in 1180.  

Due to the claimed great number of miracles that rapidly occurred either at his tomb or through his intercession, he was canonized only 45 years after his death.  His heart was preserved in Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin from the 13th century until March 3, 2012 when it was stolen.  It had no economic value, but it was priceless treasure that linked the present with their founding father.  

Practical Take Away

St. Lawrence was born in Ireland to a royal family, that lost their power.  He was imprisoned as a political prisoner at the age of 10, for two years.  This only strengthened his desire for he religious life.  He became an Abbot at the age of 26, and the Archbishop of Dublin at the age of 32.  He worked most of his life for the Church Reform Movement of the 12th Century.  He was known for his profound sanctity and charity for those under his care.