August 9, 2016

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence
Saint Laurent devant l’empereur Dèce ; Martyre de Saint Laurent, Fra Angelico,
1447-1448, (Niccoline Chapel, Vatican, Rome).

August 10th, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Lawrence. He led the seven deacons in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy, among other duties, in serving the Roman Church during the mid-third century. This young deacon and heroic martyr is among the most highly venerated saints in the early Church. During the Christian persecution under Valerian in 258, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed crying, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" Sixtus replied, "I will not leave you, I will not abandon you my son. More difficult trials are kept for you. A shorter race is set for us who are older. For you who are young a more glorious triumph over tyranny is reserved. Soon, you will see, cry no more, after three days you will follow me." Sixtus' words inspired Lawrence, who that day gave to the poor the rest of the money he had.

Believing the Church possessed enormous wealth, Hippolytus, the Prefect of Rome, ordered Lawrence to bring him the Church's treasure. Lawrence told Hippolytus he would do so in three days. He gathered together all the poor and sick of Rome supported by the Church. When Lawrence presented them to the Prefect, Hippolytus angrily exclaimed, "This is the Church's treasure?"

In a rage, Hippolytus condemned Lawrence to death. The future saint was tied to an iron grill over a slow burning fire designed to prolong his agony. So consumed with love for God was Lawrence that he hardly felt the flames. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" Lawrence rejoiced in his most terrible martyrdom and died praying for the conversion of Rome, in the hope that the faith of Christ might spread throughout the world. He is the patron saint of the city of Rome, the poor, deacons and seminarians, among others. O God, giver of that ardor of love for you by which St. Lawrence was outstandingly faithful in service and glorious in martyrdom, grant that we too may love what he loved and put into practice all he taught, even unto death, in imitation of Christ.

The Vatican biography of St. Lawrence Proto-Deacon of the Roman Church.

An exhaustive compilation of St. Lawrence depicted in art.

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