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Catholic Heroes… St. Lawrence

August 9, 2018 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

Valencia, claim its inhabitants, is the premier city in all of Spain. Located along Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coastline, it boasts stunning beaches, ancient history, and magnificent churches. Perhaps the most famous is the Valencian Cathedral, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption, which holds a chalice which has been defended as the relic of the true Holy Grail. St. Lawrence is believed to have been instrumental in secreting the Holy Grail (the sacred vessel used by Christ for His Precious Blood) out of Rome during a particularly brutal persecution of the early Church.
His parents lived in Huesca, a city well known for the silver coins it produced, but also for its nobility and Christian population in the third century. When Lawrence’s parents lived there, it was under Roman rule. Orencio, his father, was a highly decorated military man and of ancient noble heritage. The people also loved his mother, Paciencia, for her virtues and attendance to the Christian rites and her fellow Christians.
Orencio and his family lived in a sprawling hacienda in the country where they worked as farmers, before the Roman persecution of the Church spread to Spanish provinces. Orencio and Paciencia were tormenting themselves as each sought to lessen the pain of the other in facing the cruel Romans. Should they flee or stay? In order to carefully discern God’s will, they decided to fast and pray unceasingly.
They decided to flee, secretly preparing their escape without letting anyone know. They took no money or extra clothes, no family treasures or jewels, in order to make their journey safer and to be less noticeable, but also to depend completely on divine Providence. They stopped in Valencia where Orencio hoped to find manual labor to support them.
Because of the shrines to St. James and the revered sites of martyrdom, the couple was happy there. Paciencia spent her extra time in prayer while her husband searched for employment. However, he had trouble finding work, leading Paciencia to earn money by sewing.
Finally she found a patron, Columba, who not only allowed Orencio to use her land for farming, but also commissioned Paciencia to produce fine linens. When Paciencia finished a garment for the woman’s daughter and the daughter put it on, an evil spirit fled from her daughter screeching.
In thanksgiving, Columba invited the couple to stay in her sizable estate, to which they agreed only if they were given the most humble dwelling. Lawrence was then born on the feast of St. Stephen in 225 and baptized on the Feast of the Epiphany. Many signs occurred indicating this child would be an illustrious hero for the Church.
Because of the healing of Columba’s daughter and the Christian example of Orencio, Paciencia’s charity, and their purity, many were drawn to the faith while others came to resent their rising esteem. Thankfully, the couple survived petty rivalries and Lawrence grew in love of Christ. His favorite occupation became adoring the crucifix.
Once again Lawrence’s parents decided to move, this time seeking to visit the Holy Places in Jerusalem. They left when their son was only five years old, but their ship was battered by a hurricane throwing them off their course and destroying the ship. The family ended up settling in Capua where Orencio could practice farming while training Lawrence in both virtue and the true teachings of Christ.
He also taught him to read and write, and then sent him to schools to learn Latin and Greek. Carefully, Orencio also taught Lawrence how to listen to the pagan myths and beliefs so that he could refute them when needed.
Lawrence developed a wise prudence along with the knowledge he gained. Because of the persecutions, he learned that he must temper his zeal to bring others to Christ by carefully discovering if they were Christians or not, then testing the intent of others who seemed to have a desire to learn more. This was necessary because of the persecutions.
Lawrence also served the poor, visited the sick, and gave generously to the needy. In fact, his father tried to instill caution in him so that the small family had something left for themselves.
When St. Sixtus visited Capua to encourage the Christians in their trials, Lawrence, age 14, heard him and begged for instruction from him. His parents met with the future Pope and, trusting his faithfulness, allowed Lawrence to accompany Sixtus to Rome for more training. Soon Lawrence became well-known for his virtue, knowledge, and ability to uplift the discouraged.
As he continued his service to the Church more and more priests recognized his promising future of ministry — even Pope Fabian saw him as a useful servant of the Apostolic See. Records indicate that Lawrence held the office of Archdeacon of Zaragoza on Salduba and he traveled throughout Italy.
After Lawrence had left on one of the pastoral visits with Pope Sixtus (elected in 257), his parents were captured, taken to Rome, and executed by crucifixion. Lawrence was grieved not so much be the loss of his parents — they had received the crown of martyrdom — but because he had been unable to share in their fate.
Pope Sixtus convinced him that the Lord had more work for him to do. With the increased attacks under Decius, Lawrence increased his duties in serving the afflicted ones. He attended executions, buried martyrs, nursed the sick, comforted the sorrowful, and visited the imprisoned. Quite a marvel that — seeing this man of God in the streets doing such work — the authorities never arrested him.
His stature increased within the Church with his ability to prudently, wisely, and virtuously fulfill every task assigned to him. The Pope came to trust that he would faithfully carryout anything asked of him and raised him to be chancellor of the Roman Church. The only reward for Lawrence was harder work, more responsibilities, and less financial reward.
In 258, Valerian abandoned his approval of Christianity and began a violent persecution resulting in the arrest of Pope Sixtus, who refused to worship the Roman gods. Lawrence openly visited him in jail, still hoping to be martyred.
The Pope consoled Lawrence, telling him his death must come later when he would not be in the shadow of other martyrs. He also instructed him to distribute the treasures of the Church so that they would not fall into the wrong hands.
Lawrence quickly gathered liturgical vessels, money for the needy, and relics from the Holy Land, and complied with his orders. He visited many Christian homes, washing the feet of the people and distributing the relics. He gave the Holy Grail for safekeeping to Precelius, a fellow Spaniard.
On August 6, 258, Lawrence witnessed the beheading of Pope Sixtus II. Then Lawrence was arrested and ordered to turn over the treasures of the Church. In response, he presented the poor and sick of Rome and said that they were the treasures of the Church.
On August 10, 258, Lawrence was put on a gridiron to be burned alive. During his ordeal he spoke to the guards telling them that they could turn him over because he was done on that side.
His feast is celebrated on August 10.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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