Lorcán Ua Tuathail, also known as St Laurence O'Toole, was born at Castledermot, Kildare, Ireland, in 1128, and died at Eu, Normandy, France, on November 14, 1180; he was canonized in 1225 by Pope Honorius III.
However by the time of his son's birth Murtagh was subordinate to the new Kings of Leinster, the Ui Cheinnselaigh. The king from 1126 was Diarmait or Dermot McMurrough. At the age of 10 he was sent to Dermot as a hostage for his father. However at one point Murtagh's loyalty to Dermot must have become suspect as Lorcan was imprisoned for some two years in extreme austerity, and barely given enough to live on. Due to the intercession of the Abbot of Glendalough - members of Lorcan's family had been buried at one of its churches for generations - relations were amicably restored between Dermot and Murtagh.
One result of his confinement was the strengthening of Lorcan's wish to enter the religious life. The story goes that when Murtagh arrived at Glendalough for Lorcan, he stated that he would draw lots to have one of his sons made a priest, at which Lorcan laughed as he had long thought of doing so. No lots were drawn, and Lorcan stayed at Glendalough. In time he rose to become Abbot of Glendalough at the age of 26 in 1154. He was well-regarded by both the community in Glendalough and its secular neighbours for sanctity and charity to the poor.
The expedition succeeded beyond their wildest dreams; Dermot was reinstated as King of Leinster, the Norse towns of Wexford, Waterford and Dublin captured, and the Irish under the High King defeated. To seal the alliance, Dermot offered his daughter, Aoife — who was also Lorcan's niece — in marriage to the leader of the Normans, Strongbow.
The last years of Lorcán's life were defined by these events and those that were consequent upon it. He had been in negotiations with Dermot when he and his allies laid siege to Dublin after a band of Norman knights seized the town. He acted again as mediator when the King of Dublin unsuccessfully tried to recapture his town and again when Ua Conchobair laid siege.
During the negotiations, Lorcán was saying mass at the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury when he was attacked by a madman. The man had heard of the archbishop's reputation and had the idea of giving the Church another martyr; he struck Lorcán on the head, before the altar, with a club. Unlike Becket, Ua Tuathail, though knocked to the ground, was able to recover and finish the mass.
In 1180 he left Ireland for the last time, taking with him a son of Ua Conchobair's as a hostage to Henry. He meant to admonish Henry for incursions against Ua Conchobair, contrary to the Treaty of Windsor. After a stay at the Monastery of Abingdon south of Oxford - necessitated by a closure of the ports - he landed at Le Tréport, Normandy at a cove named after him, Saint-Laurent. He fell ill and was conveyed to St. Victor's Abbey at Eu. Mortally ill, it was suggested that he should make his will, to which he replied: "God knows, I have not a penny under the sun to leave anyone." His last thoughts were of his people in Dublin: "Alas, you poor, foolish people, what will you do now? Who will take care of you in your trouble? Who will help you?"
Ua Tuathail was well-known as an ascetic, wore a hair shirt, never ate meat, and fasted every Friday on bread and water. In contrast to this, it is said that when he entertained, his guests lacked for nothing while he drank water coloured to look like wine so as not to spoil the feast. Each Lent he returned to Glendalough to make a forty days' retreat in St. Kevin's Cave on a precipice of Lugduff Mountain over the Upper Lake.
Due to the great number of miracles that rapidly occurred either at his tomb or through his intercession, he was canonized only forty-five years after his death.
St Laurence's skull was brought back to Britain in 1442 by a nobleman who fought at Agincourt named Sir Rowland Standish (relation of Myles Standish). The bones were interred at the Parish Church of Chorley in England, the church is now named St. Laurence's. The bones disappeared in the Reformation under Henry VIII's rule. His heart is preserved in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.
The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman. Volume VIII: Tract 90 and the Jerusalem Bishopric, Jan. 1841-April 1842
Mar 01, 2002; GERARD TRACEY, ED. The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman. Volume VIII: Tract 90 and the Jerusalem Bishopric, Jan....