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Saint of the Day: St. Thorlac Thorhallsson

Patron Saint of Iceland

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Bishop (1133-1193)

His life

+ Thorlac Thorhallson was born in Iceland in 1133, little more than a century after Christianity was introduced in that land. He was made a deacon when he was fifteen and became a priest before he was twenty.

+ A short time after his ordination he was sent to study abroad, returning to Iceland in 1161. He kept a strict rule of life, reciting a third of the Psalter each day, and he had a strong devotion to the titular saints of the churches in which he ministered.

+ Thorlac established a community of Augustinian canons, serving as prior, and, in 1178, he was consecrated as bishop of Skalhout.

+ A pioneer of reform, Thorlac embraced the principles of Pope Saint Gregory VII: he abolished simony, enforced clerical celibacy, and imposed the Church’s marriage laws. While Iceland was nominally Christian at this time, a strong affinity for pagan practices and values remained.

Thorlac’s firmness, patience, and kindness torward the poor endeared him to his people.

+ Saint Thorlac died 1193. Five years after his death, the governing body of Iceland, which included the bishops and clergy, formally declared him a saint. Devotion to Saint Thorlac made its way to England, Scandinavia, Norway, and Germany.

+ In 1984 Saint John Paul II added his name to the Roman Martyrology (the Church’s official list of saints) and proclaimed him patron saint of Iceland.

For prayer and reflection

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

Spiritual bonus

On this day the Church also celebrates the memory of the priest Saint of Kanty. Revered for his love of the poor and his work as a teacher of theology in Poland’s University of Krakow, Saint John died on Christmas Eve, 1473, and was canonized in 1767.

Prayer

Almighty ever-living God,
as we see how the Nativity of your Son
according to the flesh draws near,
we pray that to us, your unworthy servants,
mercy may flow from your Word,
who chose to become flesh of the Virgin Mary
and establish among us his dwelling,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Collect for December 23)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

Access our archives of daily saint biographies here
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