So why does St. Lawrence get a feast day? Not just an optional Memorial, not just an obligatory Memorial, but a feast day—like the Apostles, like the Archangels? I mean, we all know a lot of great guys named Larry, but…St. Lawrence served as Pope St. Sixtus II’s deacon. Both of them were martyred by order of the Emperor Valerian in the middle of the third century.
Everyone loved Lawrence. He concerned himself solely with sacred worship and the well-being of the poor. He had a great sense of humor. He went to his martyrdom with such courageous faith that some of the pagan Roman senators who witnessed it became Christians.
In other words, St. Lawrence had such strength and charisma that he bolstered the faith of countless people. We could say he was a Pope-John-Paul-II-like figure, seventeen centuries earlier. Lawrence’s tomb was erected near the site of his martyrdom, and people flocked to it in droves. The Emperor Constantine built a basilica to house the tomb. The relics of St. Justin Martyr and St. Stephen are housed with St. Lawrence’s relics. Pope St. Leo the Great said that St. Lawrence gave to the city of Rome the same luster that the first Christian martyr—St. Stephen, like Lawrence a deacon—gave to Jerusalem.
So today’s feast unites us with the long and inspiring history of our Mother Church, the Church of Rome. May St. Lawrence pray for us, that we will heroically keep the faith with love and good humor.
[Click HERE to read about Pope Benedict's visit to St. Lawrence's tomb.]