Saturday, August 10, 2013

Homily: August 10 - St. Lawrence, martyr - "Turn me over, I'm done on this side"

Today’s saint was a deacon of the Church of Rome in the mid 3rd century.  It’s hard to imagine the situation of the Church in Rome during the persecution, which lasted from 64 A.D. to 313 AD— We're talking about a state sponsored persecution lasting longer than America has been a nation.  

In 257 AD, the Roman Emperor Valerian passed a decree that Christian worship was forbidden unto death and that everyone was now forced to practice the pagan religion of the state.  And then, a second decree, a year later in 258 AD, that simply and coldly ordered all bishops, priests, and deacons be put to death.  

The Pope, Bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus II was arrested and killed on August 7th 258 AD and Saint Lawrence was arrested and killed four days later.

Lawrence was a Spaniard, called to Rome from Toledo by the Pope.  As a deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the diocese of Rome and the distribution of alms to the poor.  When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor—the widows and orphans of Rome—and gave them all the money he had on hand.

When the prefect of Rome heard this, he imagined that Church must have a considerable treasure hidden somewhere in the city.  He ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasure to him.  So, Deacon Lawrenece  gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons.. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasures of the Church.”

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flame. He even joked.  I'm done on this side! Turn me over” Before his death he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world

Two lessons: first, that the poor are truly the treasure of the Church, and by caring for them we care for Jesus himself . And secondly, we too can laugh in the face of death, because we, like St. Lawrence know that we are made for a life beyond this life.

Almost nothing else is known about today’s saint—yet the greatest fact of his life is certain: he lived and died for Christ.  Through the prayers of St. Lawrence, may we be made worthy of the promises of Christ for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

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