St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr - Fr Alberic Maisog
-According to the “Status of Global Mission” report which is published by the international Bulletin of Missionary Research there were, on average, 270 new Christian martyrs every 24 hours, such that “the number of martyrs just in the period 2000-2010 was approximately 1 million.”
-The report defines “martyrs” as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.”
-Even though we have no genuine account of St. Lawrence's martyrdom, we do possess considerable evidence from most ancient times regarding the particulars of his passion. Legendary Acts tell how Lawrence was a disciple of Pope Sixtus II (257-258), who dearly loved him because of his special talents, but principally because of his innocence; in spite of his youth, the Pope numbered him among the seven deacons of Rome and raised him to the position of archdeacon. As such, Lawrence had the immediate care of the altar and was at the side of the saintly Pope whenever he offered the holy Sacrifice; to him also was confided the administration of the goods of the Church and the responsibility of caring for the poor.
-During the persecution of Emperor Valerian (253-260), Sixtus II and his four deacons were martyred. From his relations with Pope Sixtus, it was known that St. Lawrence acted as the steward over the Church's property. He was arrested therefore and placed under the watch of a certain Hippolytus. There in prison Lawrence cured the blind Lucillus and several other blind persons; impressed thereby, Hippolytus embraced the faith and died a martyr.
-Ordered by the authorities to surrender the treasures of the Church, Lawrence asked for two days time during which to gather them. The request was granted and he brought together in the house of Hippolytus the poor and the sick whom he had supported. These he led to the judge. "Here are the treasures of the Church!"
-Lawrence was tortured, scourged, and scorched with glowing plates. In the midst of excruciating pain he prayed: "Lord Jesus Christ, God from God, have mercy on Your servant!" And he besought the grace of faith for the bystanders. At a certain point the soldier Romanus exclaimed: "I see before you an incomparably beautiful youth. Hasten and baptize me." He had observed how an angel dried the wounds of Lawrence with a linen cloth during his passion.
-Again during the night he was dragged before the judge and threatened with immediate death. But he replied: "My God I honor and Him alone I serve. Therefore I do not fear your torments; this night shall become as brightest day and as light without any darkness." When placed upon the glowing gridiron, he jested with his executioners and the cruel tyrant. "Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side." Shortly after this had been done, he cried again: "At last I am finished; you may now take from me and eat." Then turning to God in prayer: "I thank You, O Lord, that I am permitted to enter Your portals." To comfort him during his torments God said to him: "My servant, do not be afraid. I am with you."
-The pain of the martyrs can be better imagine than described. God alone can know to the full the extent of the agonies of His martyrs; we poor mortals can only feebly imagine and less accurately describe them. We may not be called to a red martyrdom, that is, to shed our blood for Christ, but we are all called to a white martyrdom, that is, the little pinpricks that we encounter from time to time, and to the carrying of our crosses.
-Finally, in the words of Pope John Paul II, “How often does hidden martyrdom take place in the depth of people’s heart: there is martyrdom of the body and a martyrdom of the spirit; a martyrdom of our vocation and our mission; a martyrdom of the struggle with oneself and the victory over oneself.”