Skip to comments.The Martyrdom of St. Laurence (Lawrence)
Posted on 08/10/2006 8:28:41 PM PDT by Pyro7480
(Prior to his final victory, St. Lawrence was brought before Cornelius Secularis, prefect of Rome under the Emperor Valerian, who, according to Dom Prosper Guéranger in his Liturgical Year, "aimed at ruining the Christians by prohibiting their assemblies, putting their chief men to death, and confiscating their property." It was for this reason that St. Lawrence, the archdeacon for Pope St. Sixtus II, was summoned to the tribunal of Cornelius, who sought the riches of the Church of Rome. It was the duty of the archdeacon to care for these treasures. St. Lawrence asked for a short delay, so he could gather these riches for the prefect. When the archdeacon returned three days later, instead of bringing vessels of gold and silver, he brought the poor of the city, saying, "[B]ehold, these choice pearls, these sparkling gems that adorn the temple, these sacred virgins, I mean, and these widows who refuse second marriage.... Behold then, all our riches." In response to his boldness, Cornelius ordered the scourging and torture of St. Lawrence upon the rack. The following is also taken from Dom Guéranger's entry for the feast of St. Lawrence in Volume XIII of his Liturgical Year.)
"...Laurence was taken down from the rack about midday. In his prison, however, he took no rest, but wounded and bleeding as he was, he baptized the converts won to Christ by the sight of his courageous suffering. He confirmed their faith, and fired their souls with a martyr's intrepidity. When the evening hour summoned Rome to its pleasures, the prefect recalled the executioners to their work, for a few hours' rest had sufficiently restored their energy to enable them to satisfy his cruelty."
"Surrounded by this ill-favoured company, the prefect thus addressed the valiant deacon: 'Sacrifice to the gods, or else the whole night long shall be witness of your torments.' 'My night has no darkness,' answered Laurence, 'and all things are full of light to me.' They struck him on the mouth with stone, but he smiled and said, 'I give Thee thanks, O Christ.'"
"Then an iron bed or gridiron with three bars was brought in and the saint was stripped of his garments and extended upon it while burning coals were placed beneath it. As they were holding him down with iron fork, Laurence said 'I offer myself as a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.' The executioners continually stirred up the fire and brought fresh coals, while they still held him down with their forks. Then the saint said: 'Learn, unhappy man, how great is the power of my God; for your burning coals give me refreshment, but they will be your eternal punishment. I call Thee, O Lord, to witness: when I was accused, I did not deny Thee; when I was questioned, I confessed Thee, O Christ; on the red-hot coals I gave Thee thanks.' And with his countenance radiant with heavenly beauty, he continued: 'Yea, I give Thee thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, for that Thou hast deigned to strengthen me.' He then raised his eyes to his judge, and said: 'See, this side is well roasted; turn me on the other and eat.' Then, continuing his canticle of praise to God [he said]: 'I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that I have merited to enter into Thy dwelling place.'"
"As he was on the point of death, he remembered the Church. The thought of the eternal Rome gave him fresh strength, and he breathed forth this ecstatic prayer: 'O Christ, only God, O Splendour, O Power of the Father, O Maker of heaven and earth and builder of this city's walls! Thou has placed Rome's scepter high over all; Thou hast willed to subject the world to it, in order to unite under one law the nations which differ in manners, customs, language, genius, and sacrifice. Behold the whole human race has submitted to its empire, and all discord and dissensions disappear in its unity. Remember thy purpose: Thou didst will to bind the immense universe together into one Christian Kingdom. O Christ, for the sake of Thy Romans, make this city Christian; for to it Thou gavest the charge of leading all the rest to sacred unity. All its members in every place are united - a very type of Thy Kingdom; the conquered universe has bowed before it. Oh! may its royal head bowed in turn! Send Thy Gabriel and bid him heal the blindness of the sons of Iulus, that they may know the true God. I see a prince who is to come - an Emperor who is a servant of God. He will not suffer Rome to remain a slave; he will close the temples and fasten them with bolts forever.'"
"Thus he prayed, and with these last words, he breathed forth his soul. Some noble Romans who had been conquered to Christ by the martyr's admirable boldness, removed his body: the love of the most high God had suddenly filled their hearts and dispelled their former errors. From that day, the worship of the infamous gods grew cold; few people went now to the temples, but hastened to the altars of Christ. Thus Laurence, going unarmed to the battle, had wounded the enemy with his own sword."
Da nobis, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, vitiorum nostrorum flammas exstinguere; qui beato Laurentio tribuisti tormentorum suorum incendia superare. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivat et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saceulorum. Amen.
"Grant to us, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, the extinguishing of the flame of vice, even as Thou didst enable blessed Lawrence to overcome his fire of sufferings, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen." (Collect on the Feast of St. Lawrence)
For this reason, St. Lawrence became the patron saint of chefs, and in particular, those who cook on grills (who said the Catholic Church didn't have a sense of humor!).
My girlfriend was born on the feast day of St. Lawrence, and grew to admire this saint, and in particular, his sense of humor which was displayed above in his last moment. Her decision to attend Christendom College was helped by the fact that their commons building is named after St. Lawrence, which actually contains their dining facilities and kitchen (someone there must have caught the saint's sense of humor). ;-)
August 10, 2007
The esteem in which the Church holds Lawrence is seen in the fact that todays celebration ranks as a feast. We know very little about his life. He is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly.
He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II. Four days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four clerics suffered martyrdom, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian.
A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasuresthe emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with himonly words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory. After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, These are the treasure of the Church.
The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to diebut it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrences body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, It is well done. Turn it over and eat it!
The church built over Lawrences tomb became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages.
Even though we have no genuine account of St. Lawrence's martyrdom, we do possess considerable evidence from most ancient times regarding the particulars of his passion. Legendary Acts tell how Lawrence was a disciple of Pope Sixtus II (257-258), who dearly loved him because of his special talents, but principally because of his innocence; in spite of his youth, the Pope numbered him among the seven deacons of Rome and raised him to the position of archdeacon. As such, Lawrence had the immediate care of the altar and was at the side of the saintly Pope whenever he offered the holy Sacrifice; to him also was confided the administration of the goods of the Church and the responsibility of caring for the poor.
During the persecution of Emperor Valerian (253-260), Sixtus II and his four deacons were martyred. Very ardently Lawrence desired to die with his spiritual father and therefore said to him: "Father, where are you going without your son? Where are you hastening, O priest, without your deacon? Never before did you offer the holy Sacrifice without assistants. In what way have I displeased you? In what way have you found me unfaithful in my office? Oh, try me again and prove to yourself whether you have chosen an unworthy minister for the service of the Church. So far you have been trusting me with distributing the Blood of the Lord."
This loving complaint of joyous self-oblation Sixtus answered with words of prophecy: "I am not forsaking you, my son; a severer trial is awaiting you for your faith in Christ. The Lord is considerate toward me because I am a weak old man. But for you a most glorious triumph is in store. Cease to weep, for already after three days you will follow me". After these comforting words he admonished him to distribute all the remaining Church goods allocated to the poor. While Lawrence was dispersing these items in the house of a certain Narcissus, a blind man named Crescentius asked for healing help by the imposition of hands. The holy deacon made the Sign of the Cross over him and the man began to see.
From his relations with Pope Sixtus, it was known that he acted as the steward over the Church's property. He was arrested therefore and placed under the watch of a certain Hippolytus. There in prison Lawrence cured the blind Lucillus and several other blind persons; impressed thereby, Hippolytus embraced the faith and died a martyr. Ordered by the authorities to surrender the treasures of the Church, Lawrence asked for two days time during which to gather them. The request was granted and he brought together in the house of Hippolytus the poor and the sick whom he had supported. These he led to the judge. "Here are the treasures of the Church!"
Lawrence was tortured, scourged, and scorched with glowing plates. In the midst of excruciating pain he prayed: "Lord Jesus Christ, God from God, have mercy on Your servant!" And he besought the grace of faith for the bystanders. At a certain point the soldier Romanus exclaimed: "I see before you an incomparably beautiful youth. Hasten and baptize me." He had observed how an angel dried the wounds of Lawrence with a linen cloth during his passion.
Again during the night he was dragged before the judge and threatened with immediate death. But he replied: "My God I honor and Him alone I serve. Therefore I do not fear your torments; this night shall become as brightest day and as light without any darkness." When placed upon the glowing gridiron, he jested with his executioners and the cruel tyrant. "Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side." Shortly after this had been done, he cried again: "At last I am finished; you may now take from me and eat." Then turning to God in prayer: "I thank You, O Lord, that I am permitted to enter Your portals." To comfort him during his torments God said to him: "My servant, do not be afraid. I am with you." He was put to death upon the Viminal Hill and buried on the Tiburtinian Way.
Such the passion and death of this Christian hero, a story that in the Roman Breviary is told by the antiphons and responsories. Already in Constantine's time there was erected over his grave a church that belonged to the seven major basilicas of Rome, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.