Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with "odium humani generis" [hatred of the human race]. The Romans claimed to be citizens of a great empire, yet they practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as "exposure", the killing of unwanted newborns. They also tried to institutionalize approval of homosexual relationships on a par with authentic marriage. The tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of the holy life and death of one Deacon who understood the true heart of his vocation.
Sentenced to death in the Emperor Valerian's sweeping condemnation of all Christian clergy, Lawrence offended the Emperor and endeared himself to all Christians
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - On August 10 in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar we commemorate a great Deacon and Martyr of the early Church named Lawrence. I have served as a deacon for fifteen years and continue to draw great encouragement from the story of Deacon Lawrence as I seek to be faithful to my own vocation.
I am also a student of Church history. I regularly write about - and contend with - the challenges we currently face in this new missionary age. I find myself regularly reminding people that these times are not the most difficult the Church has faced. Nor is our situation all that new to the Church. We were born for times such as these.
I offer this account of this Deacon/Martyr named Lawrence who helped to bring the entire pagan Roman Empire to Jesus Christ to demonstrate that fact. It seems particularly relevant because we are living in a modern Rome. Deacon Lawrences' heroic life and death commend him to all who see the Third Christian Millennium as a new missionary age and are willing to sacrifice all for the love of Jesus Christ.
The year was 258. It was a difficult beginning for what would become the First Christian Millennium. Hostility against these early followers of Jesus Christ was growing. The barbarism and severity of pagan Rome had begun to reach a fever pitch. It would soon lead to a blood lust. The newborn Christian Church, faithful to the One who had given Himself for the life of the world, continued the work of His redemption.
Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with "odium humani generis" [hatred of the human race]. The Romans claimed to be citizens of a great empire, yet they practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as "exposure", the killing of unwanted newborns. They also tried to institutionalize approval of homosexual relationships on a par with authentic marriage.
Emperor Nero in the first-century A.D. was not only overt in his homosexual relationships but sought to make them normative in the empire, to give an equal status between homosexual relationships and marriage. First and Second century Rome was a challenging mission field for these early Christians. Rome proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age while it violated the natural law and embraced debauchery.
The day that Deacon Lawrence experienced his birth from death to life was an ominous and frightful day in ancient Rome. Four days earlier, the great Bishop of Rome, Sixtus, was arrested by soldiers of the emperor Valerian, along with his beloved deacons, and beheaded.
Valerian had issued an edict to the Roman Senate that all the Christian clergy-bishops, priests and deacons-were to be arrested and executed. There were so many holy people among the martyrs of early Rome. That makes it even more remarkable that the life and death of this one humble deacon-Lawrence-is attributed with "all of Rome becoming Christian."
Sentenced to death in the Emperor Valerian's sweeping condemnation of all Christian clergy, Lawrence offended the Emperor and endeared himself to all Christians since-by assembling before Valerian the "gold and silver" of the Church.
According to the tradition, Deacon Lawrence, knowing that the fervor of Valerians' hatred was extending to all Christians who owned property, began to give it all away. He distributed the money and treasures of the Church to the city's poor-believing the clear admonition of the Savior that they were blessed and especially loved by Him.
Valerian heard the news and wanted the treasure to satisfy his unbridled lust for worldly power. So, he offered Deacon Lawrence a way out of sure death. If he would show him where the Church's great gold and silver were located, he would issue an order of clemency, sparing his life so that he could continue his work. Valerian was delighted when the deacon asked for three days to gather all the gold and silver of the Church together in one central place!
For three days, Deacon Lawrence went throughout the city and invited all the beloved poor, handicapped, and misfortunate, who were all being supported by a thriving early Christian community who understood the Gospel imperative, to come together.
When Valerian arrived, Deacon Lawrence presented him with the true "gold and silver" of the Church! The emperor was filled with rage! Beheading was not enough for this Christian Deacon. He ordered Deacon Lawrence to be burned alive, in public, on a griddle. Witnesses recorded the public martyrdom. The deacon cheerfully offered himself to the Lord Jesus and even joked with his executioners!
The tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of the holy life and death of one Deacon who understood the true heart of his vocation. He was poured out, like his Master, Jesus Christ the Servant, in redemptive love, on behalf of others. It is still said to this day that all of Rome became Christian as a result of the faithful life, and the death, of this one humble deacon. He was buried in a cemetery on the Via Tiburtina. On that spot, Constantine would later build a Basilica.
A special devotion to Lawrence, deacon and martyr, spread throughout the entire Christian community. Early Christians had no doubt that those who had gone to be with the Lord continued to pray for those who still struggled in this earthly life. They saw in Lawrence a great example of how to live, and how to die, faithful to the Gospel. Years later, St Augustine would reflect on the heroism of this great deacon in a sermon preached on his feast day, emphasizing that his life and death were an example for all Christians to emulate:
"I tell you again and again my brethren, that in the Lord's garden are to be found not only the roses of His martyrs. In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them."
The life and death of Deacon Lawrence still speaks the timeless message of the Gospel to all who will listen. As we live our lives faithfully-no matter what our vocation-we are to make the message our own. Whether we are ever called to shed our blood in what has traditionally been called "red martyrdom" or simply called to offer our sacrifices daily in a continuous life of poured-out love (traditionally called "white martyrdom"), we continue the redemptive work of the One to whom Lawrence offered himself fully, Jesus Christ.
By Marshall Connolly, (California Network)
If you are an American, today is Thanksgiving. Hopefully today you have made a point to attend Mass and to give thanks to God for all His blessings. If you are not American, today's holiday is a reminder that God deserves thanks from all His creation. We pray you will ... continue reading
By Billy Atwell
In the face of the current "witch-hunts" endured by some of our Bishops, let us remember a hero on October 17, the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Ignatius of Antioch is a bishop and martyr of the Church who died in the ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
There is so much to write about in this marvelous account of the life of one of my own personal heroes, the saint whose witness led me back to the Church, Francis of Assisi. However, I will focus on one aspect of Bonaventure's tribute to Francis. He was his ... continue reading
By Youngsun Jun
Though I am not strong enough to hold the suffering souls in my arms and carry them home, I can do one thing: I can pray for the deliverance of the souls who are in the darkness. I can request help from the angels for them. I can make a 911 call for them. So again, I ... continue reading
By Deacon F. K. Bartels
The Catechism of the Catholic Church informs us - The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328). Charged by God to ... continue reading
By Matt Hicks
Miraculous testimony of an elite level gymnast touched by Padre Pio: 'Pio, like all the saints, is like the window-washer that scales tall buildings to clear away the muck and allow us to see His luminous rays aflame. God sends them, as He pushes us forward, ... continue reading
By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
There is confusion over the proper title of Mother Teresa. Her name is appearing in the media as both "Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta" and "Mother Teresa of Kolkata," sometimes written with the word "Mother" and sometimes without. Which is correct? LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading
By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
The saints are real and active in our lives. This is more obvious than ever following the miraculous recovery of a baby in an Irish intensive care unit. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A relic of Saint Padre Pio has been credited with a dramatic improvement in ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
In her convent of San Damiano, Clare heroically practiced the virtues that should characterize all Christians: humility, a spirit of piety and penance, and charity. Her fame of sanctity and the prodigies that came about thanks to her intervention led Pope ... continue reading
By Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck
August 9 is the Memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Edith Stein, Catholic feminist, philosopher and martyr of Auschwitz. In this sketch, Fr. Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck, Jewish born priest and Chair of the National Pro-Life Center (Washington, DC), examines the ... continue reading