St Laurence O'Toole

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Archbishop of Dublin. St Laurence was born about 1128 in Co Kildare of a marriage between the chieftain families O'Toole and O'Byrne. He spent most of his childhood as a hostage of Dermot McMurrogh, King of Leinster.

Laurence became a monk at Glendalough and was elected abbot at the age of 25. Besides leading a life of prayer, the community was very involved in famine relief and preaching against brigandage. In 1162, Laurence was elected archbishop of Dublin. He introduced the Austin Canons into the parish churches of the diocese and wore their habit himself, spending part of his time in living in Kevin's cell. He was also very active in work for the poor.

When the English invaded in 1170, he acted as a peacemaker between Strongbow and the Irish. He took part in various synods including Cashel where clerical celibacy and the Sarum Rite were accepted.

He negotiated a treaty between Henry II of England and Rory O'Connor, High King of Ireland. In 1179, he was sent to Rome with five other bishops to give a report on the Church in Ireland.

Laurence was involved in several struggles with the church in his efforts to prevent corruption. He also fell out with Henry II because, through the courts, he fiercely defended the rights of the Irish to keep their own land and property from Norman settlers who had arrived with the invading army.

King Henry was so angry with him that, in 1180, when Laurence had gone to England for negotiations, he refused to see him, keeping him waiting at Abingdon for three weeks before heading for Normandy. Laurence followed him and was given permission to return to Dublin. But, on the way, he died at Eu on this day in 1180.

St Laurence was canonised in 1225. He is pictured in the painted calendar of saints in the basilica of the Crowned Martyrs of Rome.

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