Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 18)

In the Roman Canon, after Cyprian, we find the Deacon Lawrence.

St. Lawrence is highly extolled by the Fathers and held in great veneration by all Christian nations.  “As Jerusalem was glorified by Stephen, so is Rome renowned by its Lawrence from the rising to the setting of the sun,” says the holy Pope Leo in a sermon on the feast of this Saint.  Spain is regarded as his native country; but he was brought up and educated in Rome. Sixtus II ordained him deacon, and made him the first of the seven deacons of the Roman Church, wherefore he is also called Archdeacon of the Pope.

Exceedingly glorious is the martyrdom of the young Levite. When Pope Sixtus II was being dragged to the Catacombs for execution, Lawrence cried out to him: “Whither goest thou, Father, without thy son?  Where art thou hastening, holy priest, without thy deacon? Never wert thou accustomed to offer the Holy Sacrifice without thy minister.” And how singularly consoling are the words of the high priest to his deacon: “I am not forsaking thee, my son; greater combats await thee.  Cease to weep; after three days thou wilt follow me.” During those three days, the deacon hastened through the city, distributed the goods of the Church to the needy.

To the prefect of the city who ordered him to deliver up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor of Christ as the treasures of the Church.  On this account the heathen became enraged, and subjected the young hero to all manner of torments. St. Lawrence was scourged, struck with leaden balls, stretched on the rack, and burned with red hot metallic plates.  The judge then threatened him with an entire night of tortures. Radiant with an unearthly brightness, the intrepid sufferer exclaimed: “For me this night has no darkness, but breaks forth into the bright light of day.”

Afterward he was laid on a burning gridiron, whence he addressed the tyrant: “Behold, wretch, the power of my God; your heat for me is refreshing coolness, but it will end for you in inextinguishable fire.”  In the midst of the tortures, the martyr prayed to Christ: “On the gridiron I have not denied Thee, my God, and over the fire I have confessed Thee, my Savior. Thou hast tried and examined my heart in the night; Thou hast proved me by fire, and found no falsehood in me.  My soul adhered to Thee, whilst my flesh burned for Thee.”

It is at this point that St. Lawrence utters his most quoted phrase: “Let my body be turned; one side is broiled enough.”  This is translated in modernity as “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

He then prayed for the triumph of Christianity in the city of Rome, and closed his heroic combat with the words: “I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou dost permit me to enter through the portals of heaven.”  Thus his indomitable soul passed to the glory of God on August 10, 258. Above his grave, Constantine had the magnificent basilica of St. Lawrence erected outside the walls. There beneath the high altar repose, in a marble sarcophagus, the united relics of both the deacons, Sts. Lawrence and Stephen.

St. Lawrence, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt