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Deacon and martyr (entered heaven in this day 258)
I hope you are finding a happy way to celebrate this happy day. My most memorable St Lawrence Day was in Rome. He’s a favorite there. His feast day, they consider, is the hottest day of the year (which appropriately corresponds to the mode of his martyrdom). I always considered the red vestments used during his martyr’s Mass symbols in his case not only the blood of martyrdom and the love of the Holy Spirit, but also of a good sun tan, which is what a lot of people are working on in early August. Have you ever noticed how sun tans are so fashionable? Fashions bewilder me. They come and go so quickly, but people work so hard to follow them. There’s something about imitating the cool people that corresponds to human nature. In a sense, that’s why today’s saint is so great, because of how well imitated the Coolest person ever.
St Lawrence, though only a deacon, was Pope St Sixtus’s right-hand man. When the Pope was apprehended under the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian, Lawrence was devastated. His only relief came when Sixtus told him (prophesying) that he would also be martyred soon afterwards. In anticipation, Lawrence began distributing the goods of the Church to the poor. Supposedly, the emperor heard about it and gave Lawrence a few days reprieve, so he could gather up the Church’s treasures and hand them over to his captors. Lawrence quickly liquidated all the remaining Church’s goods and gave away the money, then gathered together the poor, the lame, and other abandoned souls. When his time was up, the shrewd and holy deacon brought the emperor to his motley crowd and proudly said, “I present to you the treasures of the Church.” Valerian missed the point, and responded with anger instead of conversion. He decided to execute Lawrence in a particularly painful and cruel way in order to avenge the “insult.” They set up a huge grill over a pit of red-hot coals and laid Lawrence, bound, upon it. As he slowly roasted to death, the Christians in the crowd seemed to perceive a sweet aroma and a brilliant halo around the saint’s calm countenance. Lawrence got the last laugh when, after a considerable time, he cheerfully informed his executioners, “You may turn me over now; this side is done.” Soon after, he uttered a prayer for the conversion of pagan Rome (which is why he is so popular among the Romans) and breathed his last.
He followed Jesus perfectly. Jesus gave away everything he had, he emptied himself even of his divinity, in order to share it with us; Lawrence sold the physical treasures of the Church to increase its spiritual treasures. Jesus offered his own life as a sacrifice to his Father, as an expression of total love and dedication to the Father’s will – not even suffering, humiliation, and death could make him deviate from the Father’s plan; Lawrence stayed faithful to his mission of serving and protecting the Church even in the face of torture and death. And he is still remembered for his heroism almost two thousand years later, even as he enjoys the delights of heaven at the side of his Divine Master.
So while you’re imitating all those cool, fashionable people by working on your tan, don’t forget to imitate Christ as well; fashions pass, and so does the pleasure they afford, but Christ is forever, and so is the joy he awards.
Your devoted Uncle, Eddy