15 November 2019

Celebrating the feast of
Saint Laurence O’Toole
in Christ Church Cathedral

Saint Laurence O’Toole … an image in stained glass in the north transept in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

It was good to be back in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, last night [14 November 2019] as a guest at the Festal Choral Evensong celebrating the Feast of Saint Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of Dublin.

Saint Laurence O’Toole left Ireland in 1180 to travel to Normandy, but became ill and died on 14 November 1180.

After his canonisation, some of his relics were returned to Dublin, and they remained in Christ Church Cathedral until the Reformation.

His heart had been on display in Saint Laud’s Chapel in the cathedral until it was stolen in 2012. The heart was recovered by the Garda Síochána last year [2018] after years of investigation and now rests in the North Transept. And so, it was appropriate that one of the lessons was read by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

The heart of Saint Laurence O’Toole has been returned to Christ Church Cathedral, and now rests in the North Transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

I was present at last night’s service as Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and as a former canon of Christ Church Cathedral. Also there last night was the Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, the Very Revd Dr William Morton.

The prayers were led by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, and the preacher was the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne.

The service was sung by the choirs of Christ Church Cathedral. Before and after the service, piper Mark Redmond played a number of pieces of traditional Irish music, including Laurence O’Toole, King of the Blind from the Neal Collection, Christ Church Yard (1728), and traditional Irish melodies arranged by David Bremner.

Adrienne Lord’s icon of Saint Laurence O’Toole in the North Transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Other former and present chapter members present included my former colleague, the Revd Canon Professor Maurice Elliott, Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, the Ven Neill O’Raw, Archdeacon of Glendalough, and Canon Robert Deane.

After the reception in the cathedral crypt, I spent some time admiring the new icons by Adrienne Lord in the North Transept, where Saint Laurence O’Toole’s heart is now displayed.

These icons include three of the Crucifixion and one of Saint Laurence O’Toole.

Adrienne Lord’s icons of the Crucifixion in the North Transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Members of the Order of Saint Lazarus at last night’s service in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

1 comment:

Brian Harrington said...

As a Catholic at the Evensong for St Laurence at Christchurch, I was struck once again by the quality of choral prayer in the Anglican tradition which continues to outdistance in composed material, choral technique and spiritual resonance anything to be heard sung in the Churches of its bigger cousin. (I believe Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is a fan.) I personally have heard of two Catholic Priests who can trace the origin of their call to a religious life to attendance at Anglican evensong. All this a roundabout way of saying that that quality was very much in evidence again on Thursday night.
St. Laurence when he was alive strove to be a figure of peace and reconciliation between the Vikings of Dublin, the native Irish and the newly arrived Norman power. He also sought to reinvigorate Church life and was himself an Augustianian Canon as well an Abbot and Archbishop and zealous for the welfare of the marginalized in his Archdiocese. As an invocation of his memory, a small group of lay people have taken it upon ourselves to organise an Ecumenical peace walk for the last few years from Glendalough to Christchurch to arrive on the afternoon of his feast, the 14th of November. We have now completed four such trips. To arrive at evensong after two days on the wicklow way in harsh weather is a truly spiritually satisfying experience.
There is a point as one descends from the Dublin mountains where (on a clear day) one can see the whole of the greater Dublin metropolis spread out before one from Howth head in the north, west and south to Maynooth and over to Dun laoighaire in the south east. It is easy to pray for the well being of all Dublin's inhabitants from this point. (If anyone would like to make contact about the walk, the email address I use most frequently is: brianph2@eircom.net.) Blessings and Best wishes, Brian Harrington