St. Lawrence O’Toole, Archbishop and Confessor
Lawrence O’Toole, was born near Castledermot, County Kildare, Ireland. He studied at Glendalough, and became Abbot of Saint Kevin’s in 1154. Eight years later he was made Archbishop of Dublin, becoming the first native-born Irishman to hold the see.
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.
He attended the Lateran Council in 1179, and died of natural causes while visiting Henry II of England in Normandy in 1180. He is buried at the abbey church at Eu, diocese of Rouen, Normandy, France. So many miracles were reported at his tomb that his relics were soon moved to a place of honor at the altar.
Lawrence was canonized only forty-five years after his death in 1225 by Pope Honorius III. He is the patron of the archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland.