St. Lawrence


Feast Day - August 10 A Sermon of Pope St. Leo

When the fury of pagan might was being hurled against the elect members of Christ’s Body, and in particular against those in holy Orders, the godless persecutor proceeded with full violence against the Levite Lawrence, who was illustrious not only for his ministry at the sacred rites but also for his administration of the Church’s material goods. By arresting him he foresaw a twofold advantage for himself: he hoped to force him to surrender the treasures of the Church and thereby to forsake the true religion. That avaricious magistrate, that enemy of the truth, equipped himself with a double weapon – with greed to rob and with godlessness to take Christ away. He ordered the upright guardian of the sacred treasures to hand over the monies of the Church upon which his heart was so greedily set. And the chaste Levite showed him where he stored them. Into his presence he brought a great number of good, poor people, those for whom he provided food and clothing from the Church’s inalienable goods; thereby he had rendered it the more inviolate to the degree it was better expended.

Angered by the frustration of his plans for easy prey and burning with hatred against a religion that advocated such dispersal of wealth, he tried next to snatch away a still more precious good. From the holy deacon who possessed no earthly wealth he sought to take that supreme treasure which makes one rich for eternity. He commanded Lawrence to deny Christ and put his courage and constancy to severest test by the most gruesome tortures. When initial cruelties brought no results, more violent ones were applied. Finally he commanded that those limbs, torn and lacerated by countless strokes under the lash, be placed over fire and roasted. Upon an iron grate aglow from the flames beneath, his body was placed and slowly rolled about, extending the agony and making the pain more intense.

O monstrous cruelty, you are gaining nothing, attaining nothing! A mortal body will be consumed by your tortures, and while Lawrence enters Heaven you will stand there helpless alongside your fire. The fire of love for Christ cannot be burned away by your kind of flame, because the fire that burns under the grate is weaker than that which smolders in Lawrence’s breast. O persecutor, you have vented your rage against the Martyr; but you have only made the crown the more glorious by intensifying the torments. Your very ingenuity has added to the honor of the victor, for even the tools of torture serve to enhance his triumph! Dearly beloved, we must therefore rejoice in holy joy and be happy in the Lord over the sublime passion of this singular individual whom He has placed before us as protector and model. For the Lord indeed is wonderful in His Saints. Thereby He has spread His majesty throughout the world, so that everywhere, from the rising of the sun unto its setting, wherever the glory of Levites beams forth in splendor, Rome is deemed no less illustrious because of Lawrence than Jerusalem because of Stephen.

Taken from The Hours of the Divine Office in English and Latin, Vol. III: August to Advent (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1963), pp. 1413-1416


Fra Angelico [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons