Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 28, 2002
In search of St. Lawrence O'Toole
Valiant Irish patriot promoted Rome-sanctioned reforms
By TED FITZGERALD
"Here is my place of rest for now and forever and it is here I shall reside for I have chosen it."
- St. Lawrence O'Toole
Lawrence O'Toole was born in Ireland about 1128, was attracted to the religious life and studied at the abbey at Glendalough.
Noted for his piety, humility and practices of great austerity, he was named abbot there in 1154 and seven years later became the first Irish-born bishop of Dublin. Greatly respected, he promoted liturgical reforms in compliance with Rome.
When Anglo-Norman armies threatened Danish Dublin, Lawrence was active as a mediator between the two factions. He then took on the responsibility of defending Irish interests against English King Henry II.
Seeming to almost replace Thomas Becket, slain by the king in 1170, as a royal irritant, he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life at St. Thomas' shrine in Canterbury just five years later.
Most visitors want to view the crypt where the gisant (reclining effigy) of St. Lawrence, said to be the oldest in France, occupies a place of honour at the end of the low, Romanesque-arched chamber. With him are effigies of the counts of Eu and the Artois family.
But what is the Irish saint doing here? In 1179, Lawrence travelled to England on behalf of Irish King Rory O'Conner to attempt to negotiate relief from unreasonable royal taxes imposed on the Irish..
Ignored, avoided and even arrested by the king, Lawrence finally travelled across the channel to attend an audience, finally granted, with Henry at Rouen. In the port of Eu, he fell ill, was tended by the monks of St. Victor there, and died on Nov. 14, 1180.
His last words are said to have been "Here is my place of rest for now and forever and it is here I shall reside for I have chosen it."
There's a saintly Canadian connection to Eu's Jesuit College.
Missionary Fathers Sts. Jean de Brebeuf, Charles Garner and Antoine Daniel all taught and studied here before travelling to New France. There they met martyrs' deaths at the hands of the Iroquois in 1648 and 1649, while serving in the Huron missions near present-day Midland, Ont.
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