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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Saint Laurence O’Toole

st-laurence-o-tooleLorcán Ua Tuathail, also known as Saint Laurence O’Toole, Archbishop of Dublin at the time of the Norman invasion of Ireland, dies in Eu, Normandy, France on November 14, 1180.

O’Toole is born in Castledermot in what is now County Kildare in 1128. His father is Maurice O’Toole, King of Hy Murray. It is common practice in the day for princes of one clan to be given as hostages to another clan, as a guarantee of peace. When he is ten years old O’Toole is given as hostage to Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster, who treats him very badly. He is sent in chains to a remote place, where he gets very little to eat and does not have enough clothes to keep him warm in the winter. For two years, even though he is a king’s son, he learns what it is like to be poor and to be oppressed.

After two years, it is agreed that O’Toole is to be released. He is sent to a monastery at Glendalough, and the monks make him welcome. It is agreed that his father is to come and collect him there. But he soon comes to love Glendalough and likes joining the monks in prayer. After his two years as a hostage, he realises that wealth and power are not important. He feels very close to God in Glendalough. He asks his father’s permission to stay there and become a monk, to which his father agrees. At the age of only 25 years old, he is elected Abbot of the monastery. As the leader of the community he encourages the monks in their learning. There is always a welcome in the monastery for the poor. When there is a famine in the area, he sells some of the treasures of Glendalough to provide food for those who are hungry.

In 1162 O’Toole becomes the first Irish-born Archbishop of the Danish city of Dublin. In those days, many of the people of Dublin do not take their Christian religion very seriously. He encourages them to become real Christians. He brings monks to Dublin from France and they live at Christ Church Cathedral. They help many people to come back to Mass and the Sacraments. O’Toole himself never forgets his own days of poverty. He continues to care for the poor, especially homeless children. He makes room for them in his own house, and they share the food at his table.

The Normans land in Ireland in 1169. The following year they besiege Dublin under their leader, Strongbow. O’Toole meets Strongbow to arrange peace but the Normans attack while the talks are going on. They seize the city and begin killing the citizens and looting their houses. O’Toole saves the lives of many people.

As Archbishop of Dublin, O’Toole participates in the Third Council of the Lateran in Rome in 1179, with some of the other Irish bishops. Pope Alexander III knows that Ireland has been going through a bad time. He knows that many people, including priests, are no longer taking their religion seriously. He entrusts to O’Toole the task of reforming the Church in Ireland.

A new dispute breaks out between the King of England and the Irish Kings. In the spring of 1180, O’Toole leaves Ireland to see if he can help settle the dispute. The English King, Henry II, does not have much time for bishops. He has already arranged to have the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, murdered. He does not welcome O’Toole. He sees a chance to get rid of O’Toole as Archbishop of Dublin and does not let him return to Ireland. Henry has control of Normandy as well as England. O’Toole follows him there. As long as there is a chance of peace, he would not give up trying.

In 1180, O’Toole becomes seriously ill. The monks at Eu in Normandy look after him in their monastery but on November 14, 1180, at the age of 52, he dies. His tomb is in the crypt under the Collegial Church at Eu. Many people still go there to pray. Laurence O’Toole is canonized in 1225 by Pope Honorius III.

(From “St. Laurence O’Toole: a spiritual leader for difficult times,” CatholicIreland.net, November 30, 1999)


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Union of the Dioceses of Glendalough & Dublin

diocese-of-dublin-and-glendalough-armsThe union of the diocese of Glendalough with that of Dublin, having been promulgated by Pope Innocent III, is confirmed by Pope Honorius III on October 6, 1216.

The broad Dublin area is Christian long before Dublin has a distinct diocese, with monasteries such as Glendalough as well as at Finglas, Glasnevin, Rathmichael, Swords, and Tallaght. Several of these function as “head churches” and the most powerful of all is Glendalough.

In the early church in Ireland, the church has a monastic basis, with greatest power vested in the Abbots of the major communities. There are bishops but not organised dioceses in the modern sense, and the offices of abbot and bishop are often comprised in one person. Some early “Bishops of Dublin,” as far back as 633, are mentioned in Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland but the Diocese of Dublin is not considered to have begun until 1038.

The Kingdom of Dublin first seeks to have a bishop of their own in the 11th century, under Sitric MacAulaf, who has been on pilgrimage to Rome. He sends his chosen candidate, Donat, to be consecrated in Canterbury in 1038, and the new prelate sets up the Diocese of Dublin as a small territory within the walled city, over which he presides until 1074. The new diocese is not part of the Church in Ireland but of the Norse Province of Canterbury. Sitric also provides for the building of Christ Church Cathedral in 1038.

At the Synod of Ráth Breasail, convened in 1118 by Gillebert, Bishop of Limerick, on papal authority, the number of dioceses in Ireland is fixed at twenty-four. Dublin is not included as the city is described as lying within the Diocese of Glendalough and still attached to Canterbury.

In 1151, Pope Eugene III commissions Cardinal Giovanni Paparo to go to Ireland and establish four metropolitans. At the Synod of Kells in 1152, Armagh, Dublin, Cashel, and Tuam, are created archiepiscopal sees. In a document drawn up by the then Archbishop of Tuam in 1214, Cardinal Paparo states that he delivered the pallium to Dublin which he determines to be preferred over Glendalough and appoints that the Glendalough diocese should be divided, and that one part thereof should fall to the metropolitan.

The part of North County Dublin known as Fingall is taken from Glendalough Diocese and attached to Dublin City. The new Archdiocese has 40 parishes, in deanaries based on the old senior monasteries. All dependence upon English churches such as Canterbury is also ended.

The founding Archbishop of the larger Dublin Diocese is Gregory, with the Bishops of Kildare, Ossory, Leighlin, Ferns, and Glendalough reporting to him.

In 1185, the Lord of Ireland, John Lackland, grants the merger of the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough. This is initially without effect as the charter lacks papal approval. When the bishop Macrobius dies in 1192, a synod is held in Dublin under the direction of the papal legate Metthew O Enna. William Piro is elected as Bishop of Glendalough and remains in office at least until 1212. Robert de Bedford is elected as successor in 1213 or 1214 but never has the opportunity to take possession of the diocesan seat. Instead, John, now King of England, reissues a grant to join Glendalough to Dublin which is finally approved in by Pope Innocent III in 1216 and confirmed by his successor Honorius III in the same year.