The Martyrdom of St. Laurence (Lawrence)
(Prior to his final victory, St. Lawrence was brought before Cornelius Secularis, prefect of Rome under the Emperor Valerian, who, according to Dom Prosper Guéranger in his Liturgical Year, "aimed at ruining the Christians by prohibiting their assemblies, putting their chief men to death, and confiscating their property." It was for this reason that St. Lawrence, the archdeacon for Pope St. Sixtus II, was summoned to the tribunal of Cornelius, who sought the riches of the Church of Rome. It was the duty of the archdeacon to care for these treasures. St. Lawrence asked for a short delay, so he could gather these riches for the prefect. When the archdeacon returned three days later, instead of bringing vessels of gold and silver, he brought the poor of the city, saying, "[B]ehold, these choice pearls, these sparkling gems that adorn the temple, these sacred virgins, I mean, and these widows who refuse second marriage.... Behold then, all our riches." In response to his boldness, Cornelius ordered the scourging and torture of St. Lawrence upon the rack. The following is also taken from Dom Guéranger's entry for the feast of St. Lawrence in Volume XIII of his Liturgical Year.)
"...Laurence was taken down from the rack about midday. In his prison, however, he took no rest, but wounded and bleeding as he was, he baptized the converts won to Christ by the sight of his courageous suffering. He confirmed their faith, and fired their souls with a martyr's intrepidity. When the evening hour summoned Rome to its pleasures, the prefect recalled the executioners to their work, for a few hours' rest had sufficiently restored their energy to enable them to satisfy his cruelty."
"Surrounded by this ill-favoured company, the prefect thus addressed the valiant deacon: 'Sacrifice to the gods, or else the whole night long shall be witness of your torments.' 'My night has no darkness,' answered Laurence, 'and all things are full of light to me.' They struck him on the mouth with stone, but he smiled and said, 'I give Thee thanks, O Christ.'"
"Then an iron bed or gridiron with three bars was brought in and the saint was stripped of his garments and extended upon it while burning coals were placed beneath it. As they were holding him down with iron fork, Laurence said 'I offer myself as a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness.' The executioners continually stirred up the fire and brought fresh coals, while they still held him down with their forks. Then the saint said: 'Learn, unhappy man, how great is the power of my God; for your burning coals give me refreshment, but they will be your eternal punishment. I call Thee, O Lord, to witness: when I was accused, I did not deny Thee; when I was questioned, I confessed Thee, O Christ; on the red-hot coals I gave Thee thanks.' And with his countenance radiant with heavenly beauty, he continued: 'Yea, I give Thee thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, for that Thou hast deigned to strengthen me.' He then raised his eyes to his judge, and said: 'See, this side is well roasted; turn me on the other and eat.' Then, continuing his canticle of praise to God [he said]: 'I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that I have merited to enter into Thy dwelling place.'"
"As he was on the point of death, he remembered the Church. The thought of the eternal Rome gave him fresh strength, and he breathed forth this ecstatic prayer: 'O Christ, only God, O Splendour, O Power of the Father, O Maker of heaven and earth and builder of this city's walls! Thou has placed Rome's scepter high over all; Thou hast willed to subject the world to it, in order to unite under one law the nations which differ in manners, customs, language, genius, and sacrifice. Behold the whole human race has submitted to its empire, and all discord and dissensions disappear in its unity. Remember thy purpose: Thou didst will to bind the immense universe together into one Christian Kingdom. O Christ, for the sake of Thy Romans, make this city Christian; for to it Thou gavest the charge of leading all the rest to sacred unity. All its members in every place are united - a very type of Thy Kingdom; the conquered universe has bowed before it. Oh! may its royal head bowed in turn! Send Thy Gabriel and bid him heal the blindness of the sons of Iulus, that they may know the true God. I see a prince who is to come - an Emperor who is a servant of God. He will not suffer Rome to remain a slave; he will close the temples and fasten them with bolts forever.'"
"Thus he prayed, and with these last words, he breathed forth his soul. Some noble Romans who had been conquered to Christ by the martyr's admirable boldness, removed his body: the love of the most high God had suddenly filled their hearts and dispelled their former errors. From that day, the worship of the infamous gods grew cold; few people went now to the temples, but hastened to the altars of Christ. Thus Laurence, going unarmed to the battle, had wounded the enemy with his own sword."
Da nobis, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, vitiorum nostrorum flammas exstinguere; qui beato Laurentio tribuisti tormentorum suorum incendia superare. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium tuum, qui tecum vivat et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saceulorum. Amen.
"Grant to us, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, the extinguishing of the flame of vice, even as Thou didst enable blessed Lawrence to overcome his fire of sufferings, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen." (Collect on the Feast of St. Lawrence)