Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates one of the great Roman saints, St. Lawrence (or San Lorenzo, as he's known in the Urbs Aetera), deacon and martyr. The fame of the life and death of St. Lawrence have spread throughout the world, and he still serves as an inspiration almost 1800 years after he suffered martyrdom.
|Lawrence giving alms, by Bl. Angelico|
The story of his death is that while he was ministering at the altar, Pope St. Sixtus II (who was saying the Mass) was apprehended and led to his death. Sixtus told Lawrence not to cry, for his own arrest and death would come but fourdays later. And so it did! Upon the arrest of St. Sixtus, Lawrence was instructed by the prefect of Rome to turn over to him all of the wealth and treasures of the Church. For three days, Lawrence worked tirelessly to distribute all the assets of the Church to the poor, so as to prevent it from being seized by the emperor
On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, "The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor." This act of defiance led directly to his martyrdom. (source)
Lawrence was led out and grilled alive. Legend states that at one point during his agony, he looked at the man roasting him and quipped, "I'm done on this side. You can turn me over now."
Since the fourth century, with a little help from Ss. Ambrose and Augustine, the cult of St. Lawrence has spread to all of Western Churches, and it continues to be a day of great celebration, especially in Rome, where multiple basilicas are named for the saint.
The collect for St. Lawrence in the pre-1970 liturgical books of the Church is very poignant:
- O Almighty God,
- Who didst give unto Blessed Lawrence power
- to be more than conqueror in his fiery torment;
- grant unto us, we beseech thee,
- the power to quench the flames of our sinful lusts.
- Through Jesus Christ, we pray
- Amen. More about the life of St. Lawrence can be found here