INSTRUCTION FOR THE FEAST OF ST. LAWRENCE
The Church’s Year
By Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine
St. Lawrence, a youth endowed with rare gifts of body and soul, who had the best of fortunes to expect from the world, for the love of God and from zeal for the salvation of his soul put the world with all its honor, and riches and pleasures, beneath his feet, and dedicated himself to the priesthood, at a time when the Christians and especially the clergy, were continually persecuted. He was at a very early age, on account of his remarkable merit and knowledge, his fidelity and prudence, and notwithstanding his youth, appointed archdeacon by Pope Sixtus, in which office, besides his service at the altar, he had charge of the Church treasury and the money for the poor, which led to his martyrdom. By command of the Emperor Valerian, who ordered the bishops and priests to be sought after to be executed, the holy Pope Sixtus was taken prisoner, sentenced to death, and executed. Lawrence burning with desire for a martyr’s death, wished to die with his spiritual father, and for this purpose followed him to the place of death, saying: “Where are you going, my father, without your son?” But the pope ordered him to return and guard the treasures of the Church. When these words were reported to the officers, Lawrence was taken and the treasure demanded of him. He asked for three days in which to consider the demand, and at the end of that time called the poor and sick to him, led them before the tyrant, and said: “These are the treasures of the Church which I promised you.” The tyrant became furious and ordered the saint to be bound and burnt upon a glowing grate. The saint bore this horrible death with joy and with indifference to the fire, and after a time said to the tyrant: “I am now roasted enough on this side, let them turn me over.” And the tyrant had him turned to the other side, upon which the saint remarked: “My flesh is now well roasted, eat if, if it pleases thee.” Having then with his eyes raised to heaven, prayed for the conversion of Rome and for the spreading of the gospel throughout the whole country, the saint slept quietly in the Lord, on the tenth of August, 258.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Enable us, we beseech Thee, O Almighty God, to extinguish in ourselves the noxious heat of sin, by whose grace blessed Lawrence triumphed over flames and the most exquisite torments. Thro.
EPISTLE, (ii. Cor. ix. 6 – 10.) Brethren: He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap of blessings. Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness, or of necessity. For God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound in you: that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. -As it is written: He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever. And he that ministereth seed to the sower, will both give you bread to eat and will multiply your seed, and increase the growth of the fruits of your justice.
EXPLANATION. These words apply perfectly to St. Lawrence, who, instead of making himself rich with the Church treasures, or gaining great honors by giving them up to the avaricious tyrant, gave them to the poor and thus gained spiritual and eternal treasures in abundance. In this we should imitate him. Almsgiving is, as the apostle says, like a field, which the more it is sowed by giving, the richer harvest it will bring for body and soul. “We should not be sad or vexed in giving, for this shows parsimony; he who gives freely to the poor, is agreeable to God, and God will repay him in His own time with corporal and spiritual riches, and will never let him come to want. That which we give to the poor, is not lost to us, but is deposited in the Lord’s treasury, whence we will again receive it with great interest.
GOSPEL. (John xii. 24-26.) At That Time: Jesus said to his disciples: Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground, die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life, shall lose it: and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal. If any man minister unto me, let him follow me: and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.
What is meant by the grain of wheat which dies? Christ, our Lord, who had to die and lay in the grave, that by His death He might bring forth the fruit of redemption, conversion, and happiness for mankind; every true Christian who mortifies his evil desires, avoids improper inclinations, and the vanity of the world, and brings forth the fruit of virtue and good works. Such mortifications are a kind of martyrdom, and like myrtyrdom will be most gloriously rewarded by God. “Crucify thy flesh,” says St. Chrysostom, “that thou mayst obtain the martyr’s crown.” “It is,” says St. Bernard, “a species of torture, by which the spirit kills the works of the flesh.” “To patiently endure disgrace, injustice, and persecution, to love those who hate us, is an inward martyrdom,” says St. Gregory. “The whole life of a Christian,” writes St. Augustine, “if led by the gospel, is a continual cross and martyrdom.”
What does it mean to hate one’s life?
It means, to promise to our inclinations nothing which is against God’s commandments, and dangerous to our salvation, and this means at the same time, to truly love our soul and to preserve it for eternal life; on the contrary, to yield everything to our soul’s passions and inclinations, everything for which it improperly longs, means to destroy it. We hate the sick man, if we give him that which he desires, when it is injurious to him, and love him, if we refuse it to him. In the same way he truly loves his soul who resists its evil desires, and he hates it, who yields to them. To such a hatred or rather to such a true love for our souls, we are admonished by the Holy Ghost: Go not after thy lusts, but turn away from thy own will. If thou give to thy soul her desires, she will make thee a joy to thy enemies. (Eccl. xviii. 30,21.)
PETITION. O Jesus, blessed Fruit of the Virgin Mary, we thank Thee, that Thou wert pleased for our salvation to become, through Thy incarnation, such a wonderful grain of wheat and die such a bitter death. Ah! that we rightly knew this grace, and imitated Thee in our lives, as have so many thousands of martyrs, among whom shines especially Thy servant Lawrence. Grant us, that we may also be filled with the desire to bear all sufferings patiently unto the end, and so zealously serve Thee here, that we may in the other world, as Thou hast promised, be honored by Thy Heavenly Father, and be happy for all eternity. Amen.
A Prayer to the Holy Martyrs
to Obtain Their Protection
O ye blessed Princes of the heavenly kingdom! ye who sacrificed to the Almighty God the honors, the riches, and possessions of this life, and have received in return the unfading glory and never-ending joys of heaven! ye who are secure in the everlasting possession of the brilliant crown of glory which your sufferings have obtained! Look with compassionate regards upon our wretched state in this valley of tears, where we groan in the uncertainty of what may be our eternal destiny. And form that divine Savior, for Whom you suffered so many torments, and Who now repays you with so unspeakable glory, obtain for us that we may love Him with all our heart, and receive in return the grace of perfect resignation under the trials of this life, fortitude under the temptations of the enemy, and perseverance to the end. May your powerful intercession obtain for us that we may one day in your blessed company sing the praises of the Eternal, and even as you now do, face to face, enjoy the beatitude of His vision! Amen
(St. Alphonsus de Liguori)