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sanctity to a place already so venerated for the memory of its good and holy men.
When he was twenty-five years of age, he was elected abbot of the monastery of Glendalough. Of this monastery, Dr Lanigan says, that it was distinct from the bishopric, with which it has not unfrequently been confounded. It was very rich, and had usually been placed under the government of abbots chosen for the rank and power of their families; a precaution rendered necessary for the protection of the surrounding district, by the predatory and encroaching temper of the age.
In this high and influential station, the value of his character was soon extensively manifested, his instructions were effectively diffused by that moral energy of character which appears to be his distinguishing feature in history; and his precepts were beautifully illustrated by the practice of all the Christian virtues. With a wise anxiety for the social amelioration of his country, he exerted himself with industrious zeal to civilize the manners and correct the barbarous habits of the people; and with an equally intense solicitude he watched with a paternal care over their wants and interests; and, as the people are most likely to retain the memory of those attentions which they can best comprehend, Lawrence O'Toole has ever been especially praised for his charity to the poor and needy. A famine, which lasted for four years during this period of his life, gave ample exercise to this virtue, and doubtless impressed it deeply on the hearts of thousands, to whom during so dreadful a visitation he was the dispenser of mercy.*
On the death of the bishop of Glendalough, the dignity was pressingly offered to the youthful abbot; but conscious of the immaturity of his years, and sensible of the importance of the charge, he declined the office, and continued in the faithful discharge of his duties until the death of the bishop of Dublin, in 1161, whom he then succeeded. It is at this period that his life in some measure falls into the general history of the country; and being already fully detailed so far as detail can have importance, may be more briefly noticed.
Shortly after his elevation to the see of Dublin, the bishop assumed the habit of an order of French monks famed for the severity of their discipline and the sanctity of their lives ; and ever after wore under his episcopal habiliments, the hair shirt prescribed by the severe discipline of that ascetic order. He also observed its rule of keeping strict silence for certain prescribed hours, and always attended with his canons at the midnight offices in Christ Church; after which, “he often remained alone in the church, praying and singing psalms until daylight, when he used to take a round in the churchyard or cemetry, chaunting the prayers for the faithful departed.” To this his historians add striking examples of austere abstinence, which, however they may be estimated by the theology of more enlightened times, cannot be erroneously referred to the sincere and devoted faith of this good Christian, who acted according to the best lights which it pleased the Father of all lights to bestow upon his age. Less doubtful was
* Lanigan, 175.
his eminent practice of those pure and holy charities which the scripture teaches us to regard as the “ fruits of the spirit;" his regard to the morals, religion, and sustenance of the poor, was only bounded by his means. Every day he took care to see fed in his presence from thirty to sixty needy persons. In the severe famines which were the consequence of the desolating wars of his time, and which on one occasion lasted for three years, he daily fed five hundred persons.
Many indeed are the accounts of beneficence and of high but rigid sanctity, which, scattered loosely among the doubtful mass of the idlest traditions, are yet in O'Toole's case authenticated by their characteristic consistency, and which combine to throw a venerable lustre round his memory. It is stated by historians, that in his day the absolution which the church assumed the power to give, had been for a time prostituted with lavish indifference to the state of the heart or the nature of the crime; archbishop O'Toole exerted himself to repress an abuse so dangerous, by refusing to give the pardon of the church in certain extreme cases unfit to be mentioned in this work.
While in the see of Dublin, the general character of his life and actions has been placed in a conspicuous light by the historical magnitude and importance of events in which his name occupies a respectable place. These events have been told already in the political series of this period. The reader has already seen, that while he was the life and spirit of his country in its efforts to resist invasion, he was no less an object of respect to the English. Above the low level of the wisdom and patriotism of that degenerate day of Irish history, the exalted sense and spirit of the archbishop rose pre-eminent. About the real character of his patriotism there can be little doubt : there is but too much justice in the casuistry which finds a large proportion of base alloy in the purest seeming course of public conduct:
- Whate'er of noblest and of best
Inseparably."* This doctrine may be easily pushed too far. In our day it might be referred to party or to sect, but it was then otherwise. To understand this rightly, it must be observed that archbishop O'Toole, in common with the other Irish bishops of his day, had one prominent object in view—to bring the Irish church into the jurisdiction of the Roman see. For this, the clearest and shortest way was the subjection of the country to England, of which the church acknowledged the supremacy of Rome. It was for this reason that in the course of these wars, the Irish bishops, with a large party among their clergy, are to be traced in constant negotiations favourable to the interests of the settlement. O'Toole, who worked more than all of them for their common purpose, alone spurned the unworthy means; and rejecting the fiendish illusion of doing evil that good might come, he boldly put himself forward in behalf of his own country, and by his spirited exertions organized at least the show of resistance. It was, however, in vain, in the absence of all national spirit and of all sense
of common cause, that this patriotic archbishop endeavoured to infuse life and unity into that senseless chaos of provincial feuds, interests, and tyrannies; as among the evil “ Tohuxougavin,” the aristocracy of squabbling thrones, principalities, and powers, one breast only was found to catch a gleam of the patriot's spirit—the ill-fated Roderic; and Lawrence O'Toole, when the hopes of the warrior's arm were found unavailing, still found a duty not unworthy in the office of a mediator between the conqueror and the fallen foe. It should not indeed be left unmentioned in proof of his eminent and conspicuous virtues, that Giraldus, who looked on every thing native with a prejudiced eye, calls him “a just and good man;" nor is it less to his honour, that Henry who was known to dislike him for his bold and uncompromising patriotism, could not help respecting his person. He was indeed so much employed as the medium of the most difficult and delicate negotiations with the hostile powers during the struggle, and with the English court afterwards, that, considering the looseness of public faith, and the capricious and arbitrary deviations which mark the conduct of the tyrants of that age, one cannot help pausing to wonder and to conceive more distinctly the state of circumstances, and the assemblage of impressive virtues which seemed as with a charmed influence to carry the worthy archbishop unharmed, unin. sulted, and without fear, through hostile camps and courts. On one occasion, when Dublin was exposed to the horrors and revolting atrocities of a stormed city, some of our readers will recollect the conduct of the archbishop, equally characteristic of the saint, the hero, and the patriot. While all was devastation, fury and terror, flight and helpless panic, while the streets rung with the hurried step of trembling citizens, and the gutters ran red with life-blood, “in the midst of all the confusion and massacre,” says Mr Moore, “the good St Lawrence was seen exposing himself to every danger, and even as his biographer describes him, dragging from the enemies hands the palpitating bodies of the slain, to have them decently interred. He also succeeded at great risk, in prevailing upon the new authorities to retain most of the clergy in their situations, and recovered from the plunderers the books and ornaments which had belonged to the different churches."
Henry, it has been mentioned, disliked him; but his dislike was of that pardonable description which kings or parties may be permitted to feel (for such is the law of human feeling,) against those whose virtues are unfavourable to their partial aims. St Lawrence, whatever duties he acknowledged to king Henry, did not consider himself exempt from the prior and paramount duty which he owed to the King of kings and Lord of lords, whose servant he was. The immunities of the Irish church, for which he always held out firmly, and for which he had the honour to plead at the council of Lateran, which he attended with other Irish bishops, gave offence to Henry, whose construction of those privileges placed them at variance with his prerogative. But the upright Lawrence, incapable of subserviency, knew that all temporal duties must be limited by the superior and more important duties to God, so far as they are clearly and authentically known, and acted as all, whether rightly or erroneously, should act, ac
cording to the dictates of conscience; a law which however latitudinarian it will seem to those who rightly contemplate the vast and multiform tendencies of human error, will, after all deductions, keep its ground as the most universal and compendious normal, on which all duty stands, and all virtue consists. It is indeed the principle which gives so much profound importance to the question of Pilate, awful when it cannot be answered with the utmost clearness " What is truth?”
When he was attending king Henry at Canterbury, he had a most providential escape from being assassinated by a lunatic. We can do no better than tell the story as we find it in Hanmer's Chronicle. “ He came to the king at Canterbury, where the monks received him with solemn procession, and hee gave himself one whole night to prayers before St Thomas his shrine, for good success in his affairs with the king. A fool espied him in his pontifical weed, wholly devoted to St Thomas Becket, and said, “I can do no better deed than make him equal with St Thomas,' with that he took a club, ranne through the throng, and gave him such a blow upon the pate, that the blood ran down his ears. The man was so sore wounded, that it was thought he would yield up the ghost. The cry was up, the fool ranne away, the bishop taking breath, called for water, and in a short time was healed.”
After a life of indefatigable zeal and goodness, in 1180, revered by his countrymen, respected by their enemies, trusted by the church, and though feared yet honoured by the king, this good and truly pious prelate resigned his breath and died of a fever at the monastery of Eu, in Normandy. When reminded of the propriety of making a will, he answered, “ God knows I have not this moment so much as a penny under the sun." He was interred in the centre of the church of Eu, in Normandy. He was canonized by pope Honorius in 1226, when his remains were placed in a silver shrine over the altar.
Among the various notices which remain of the life of Lawrence O'Toole, there is a common agreement which cannot be misinterpreted as to the main incidents which fix his character as most illustriously exempt from the vices and common infirmities which are the main colouring of history, and as nobly endowed with knowledge and public spirit beyond his countrymen in that unenlightened age. In awarding with the most cordial sincerity the still higher praise of sanctity, we must not be so far misunderstood as to be supposed to acquiesce in the errors of his darkened age; these he held honestly in common with the best and wisest of his time, when the chair of philosophy was hung with the cobwebs of the schoolmen, and a despotic superstition whose foundations rested in the depths of earth, while its towers and battlements concealed amid the clouds of heaven, overshadowed the mind of the world. But if St Lawrence worshipped at the shrine of Canterbury, he was what can with the same certainty be said of few, in an hour of triple darkness, according to his lights—the faithful servant of God; he was a pious Christian, a worthy and upright citizen, a patriot sans peur, et sans reproche : acting through the whole of his long life in the higher and earlier sense of this motto, debased in its applications by the degeneracy of modern times.
Of O'Toole's personal appearance, Mr Dalton's research enables us to give some account, which may best be offered in his own language. “ St Lawrence is represented as having been tall, and graceful in stature, of a comely presence, and in his outward habit grave though rich.”*
Among the characteristic recollections which often help to give their beautiful and softened tone to the colouring of the sterner lines of the characters of great men, the heroes of virtue, none diffuse a glow so chastely pure as those which indicate the freshness and wholeness with which the uncontaminated heart retains to the last the fond and almost sacred impressions of earliest years—indications which while they affect us with the soft force of tender feeling, contrasted with stern and lofty strength, also never fail to convey a profound and sensible impression of the deep corruption that mingles in the current of social existence. To find peace unembittered, purity unsullied, spirit unchilled, it is necessary to go back to the scenes where remain for ever fixed, the bright, pure, fresh associations of those early years before life began to unfold those fatal poison seeds in man's nature, which undeveloped
« Men were children still,
In all but life's delusive wisdom, wise.” In the leisure intervals of his busy life the archbishop was wont to retire to Glendalough, where among the scenes of his youth, he might recal many peaceful and blessed recollections of hours of heavenseeking meditation, and hear the old monastery's familiar bell (if bell it had) echoing froin St Kevin's hollow cliff, with the same feeling which the German poet puts into the lips of a far different character.
“ Oh once in boyhood's time, the love of hearen
Finan (Mac-Tiarcain) O'Gorman.
DIED A. D. 1160.
FINAN O'GORMAN, abbot of Newry succeeded in 1148 to the see of Kildare, and assisted at the synod held at Kells in 1152, when Cardinal Paparo made distribution of the palls. He died in the year 1160, and was buried at Killeigh.