Friday, August 10, 2012

Feast of St. Lawrence

Today is the feast of St. Lawrence of Rome.

This is an excerpt from a wonderful article I found on the saint at
http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0810.shtml

Born in Huesca (?), Spain; died in Rome, Italy, 258. Lawrence was said to be aSpaniard who came to Rome to serve Pope Saint Sixtus II as one of the sevendeacons of Rome. The pope himself was martyred in 258 during the Valerianpersecution, the year after the first publication of the decrees against theChristians. While one version of the martyrdom of Sixtus has him beheaded at thetime of discovery in the catacombs, the another has him taken away forquestioning and returned within a few hours to the spot for execution. In eithercase, several early Christian writers, among them Saints Ambrose and Prudentius,record that Lawrence was overwhelmed with grief when Sixtus was condemned.
The latter one tells us that Lawrence followed the pope and his captors to theplace of execution, asking why Sixtus II should be murdered and not his deacon(however, six deacons were martyred with Sixtus). Sixtus replied, "My son, I amnot leaving you. In a few days you will follow me."


Lawrence, overjoyed that he was to follow his master to martyrdom, had one taskleft. As a deacon, Lawrence was a steward of the property and wealth of thechurch. It was his duty to provide alms to those in need. Lawrence gatheredtogether all the poor, the orphans, and the widows he could find and gave themall he possessed. Lawrence even sold some of the church's gold and silver,handing over this money too to the needy.


The prefect, Cornelius Saecularis, believing that the Church was wealthy,ordered that everything of value be turned over to the emperor for the upkeep ofhis armies. The prefect said, "I understand that according to your teaching youmust render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. Your God didn't bring anymoney into the world with him, all He brought was words. So give us the money,and you can keep the words."


Lawrence said he would need three days to gather it together. In those threedays he sold the rest of the property that he administered and brought togetherthousands of lepers, the blind, and the sick, the destitute, widows, orphans,and the aged. These he presented to the prefect, observing, "The church is trulyrich, far richer than your emperor."


In his rage the prefect threatened to kill Lawrence slowly. He took a hugegridiron, heated it until it glowed, and binding Lawrence to the metal, roastedhim to death. Ambrose tells us that the fire of Divine love burned so brightlyin Lawrence that he bore the agony with unbelievable calm and in the midst ofhis torment instructed the executioner to turn him over, as he was broiledenough on the one side. Later he said, "It is cooked enough. You may eat." It issaid that as he lay dying, his face seemed to be surrounded by a beautifullight. After praying for the conversion of Rome, he died.


According to Prudentius, his death and example led to the conversion of Rome andsignaled the end of paganism in the city. There is no doubt that his deathinspired a great devotion in Rome, which quickly spread throughout the entireChurch. Both he and Sixtus are named in the canon of the Mass.



There are a couple of things I love about the story of St. Lawrence. He felt great love and then great grief for his noble pope.  He endeavored to do his job well and to serve the people to the best of his ability, even if it meant dying for them - something that I am afraid many of our clergy to day may have to face considering the times. I also admire his strong nonviolent defiance of an unjust tax - again, it seems to be very timely.


Lawrence in the patron of deacons, schoolboys, students, brewers, confectioners, cooks, cutlers, glaziers and launderers.


And on a personal note- one of my favorite uncles, from Mr. Pete's side of the family, Uncle Lawrence is having some health issues.  Please remember him in your prayers on the feast of his patron.

Uncle Larry


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