Abbot Laurence began a spiritual renewal programme amongst the monks of the Abbey bringing the Celtic Abbey of Glendalough in line with the European Abbeys. He invited the Canons of St. Augustine to come and assist in the reform of the Abbey and he became a member of the Augustinian Order himself.
In 1162 Laurence O'Toole was appointed Archbishop of Dublin. He was the first native Irish man to become Archbishop of Dublin. Prior to this the Archbishops of Dublin were Norsemen. Laurence was consecrated Archbishop of Dublin by the Archbishop of Armagh. As Archbishop of Dublin, Laurence began a policy of Church building and laid the foundation stone for the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (now Christ Church). To assist in the spiritual formation of the priests and people of the Diocese Laurence invited the Augustinian monks to become part of the Cathedral Chapter of the Holy Trinity. In a city that was in the middle of an economic boom, Laurence, as Archbishop, was seen as the one who stretched out his hand to care for the poor and the neglected. There was appalling poverty in the city at the time and each day Laurence fed the poor of the city in his home. He also established care centres for the children who had been abandoned by their parents or who were orphaned in the city.
In 1170 the Norman Invasion of Ireland was led by Richard de Cleir (Strongbow). Dublin was a walled city, but the citizens were terrified by the Norman knights and men-at-arms, as well as by the stories that were being, told of their fierceness and cruelty. Laurence O'Toole's house was besieged by people imploring him to save them and to make a treaty with the Anglo-Norrnans. The Archbishop went out to the foreigners' camp. While he appealed to them, two of the Norman knights with their followers made a breach in the walls of the city and entered the streets. They burned houses and killed the unarmed people. The noise and tumult reached the camp and so Laurence heard of the massacre. He hurried back to Dublin and succeeded in stopping the slaughter.
MacMurrough and the Normans went through the country burning churches, castles, and even the cabins. Laurence pleaded with the invading army to spare the innocent people. Laurence was now a national figure greatly in demand as a mediator by all sides. No greater tribute can be paid to him than the fact that he was the one man in Ireland whom everybody trusted. When the Normans had been beseiging Dublin, he was the one sent to mediate with them on behalf of the Vikings and Irish in the city. When the Normans at a later point in time were besieging Dublin by the Irish and Vikings, they turned to him to negotiate terms of peace. It is a sad fact that time and time again his negotiations ended in failure and betrayal but this was not held against him. Irish, Vikings, Normans, all had equal respect for him as a man of total honour and integrity. During the years that followed, he continued to be called on as a mediator. This often meant travelling across the Irish Sea to the court of Henry II in England. Laurence negotiated the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 which ended a period of tension between Henry and Rory O' Connor, who was still surviving as King of Connacht. In 1178 The Windsor Treaty was broken and the Normans and the native Irish again were involved in a long and bloody struggle. Laurence tried to bring a lasting peace, the peace that Christ could give, to the people of his own country.
Laurence attended the Third Latern Council in Rome in 1179 and was appointed as Papal Legate for all of Ireland. Because of the worsening situation in Ireland between the Normans and the native Irish in II80 Laurence was again sent to England to negotiate a peace between the different parties with Henry II. Henry refused to meet him and Laurence followed him to Normandy. Henry II was very angry with Laurence mainly because of Laurence's influence in Rome with the Pope and Laurence's popularity with the Irish people. This trip to Normandy was one of great personal risk for Laurence. The soldiers of Henry II had murdered Thomas a Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury in I158 because of a Beckett' s attempts to negotiate a peace in England between Henry' s men and the native English. Henry refused to meet Laurence in Normandy and also refused Laurence permission to return to Ireland. Laurence went to the Augustinian Monastery of St. Victor at Eu in Normandy and died there on 14th November, II80.
Laurence O'Toole was canonised in Rome in 1225. Laurence was one of the few Irish Saints officially canonised. Thanks to the efforts of the monks at En who collected all the information available about his life and miracles, Laurence is recognised as the Patron of the town of Eu and Patron of the Archdiocese of Dublin. His Feast Day is November 14th.
In what ways was Dublin in the time of Laurence O'Toole similar to today ?
In what ways was Dublin in the time of Laurence O'Toole different to today ?
What were the needs of people in Laurence time ?
How did he address these needs?
What are the needs of people today ? How can we address these needs ?
From your reading of newspapers etc., where in the world today, is there a need for these Christian qualities of peace reform and commitment to the poor?
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