ON ST. LAURENCE
Consider first, how St. Laurence, being archdeacon to the holy Pope Xystus, in the time of the persecution of the church under the heathen emperor Valerian, seeing his holy bishop led away to martyrdom, and himself left behind, addressed himself to him in these words: ‘Whither are thou going, O father, without thy son? Whither art thou hastening, O holy priest, without thy deacon? Thou wast never accustomed to offer sacrifice without me thy minister; try me then now, and make the experiment whether thou hast chosen a fit minister, to whom thou hast committed the dispensing the blood of our Lord.’ To whom the holy pope replied: ‘I am not going to leave thee, my son, nor to forsake thee, but only am going a little before thee: after three days thou shalt follow me. I am old, and therefore my conflict is more light and easy; but thou are young, and shalt sustain far greater conflicts for the love of Christ, and shalt triumph in a more glorious manner over the tyrant.’ See, my soul, what a spirit animated these blessed martyrs, what an ardour they had to suffer for the love of Christ, and let it be thy grief to find so very little in thyself of these holy dispositions.
Consider 2ndly, that what made St. Laurence so great a saint was his divine charity, that is to say, his ardent love for his God and for his neighbour. His charity or his neighbour was evinced as well by his diligent discharge of his office in the care and support of all the poor of the city, as by his distributing amongst them, in the time of the persecution, all the plate and treasures of the church committed to his charge. His fervent love of God was evinced by that invincible courage and fortitude with which he endured the worst of torments, even with cheerfulness and joy, because he was suffering for the sake of his beloved. His love was truly stronger than death; and the fire, with which he was outwardly broiled on the gridiron was by no ways to be compared with the flames of divine love which were enkindled within his soul, and which made him proof against all the efforts of his enemies, and victorious over all the powers of earth and hell. O! ‘tis divine charity that makes saints: ‘tis love, ‘tis an ardent love of God and our neighbours that carries souls to heaven. O let us but love as we ought, and as we are all strictly bound to love, and we shall all be saints; and he that loves the most shall be the greatest saint. O teach us, dear Lord, but this divine art of love, and in all things else do with us what thou wilt.
Consider 3rdly, the great lesson given us in the gospel of this festival (St. John xii. 24, & c.,) in which we are taught by our Lord, that the grain of corn must die before it can bring forth fruit; that he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal; that the minister or servant of Christ must follow him, and that where he is there also his minister shall be; and that if any one shall duly minister to Christ he shall be honoured by his Father. See, my soul, thou study well these gospel lessons; see that thou learn to die to self-love, to thy own will, to thy disorderly passions and sensual inclinations, by the practice of daily self-denial and mortification; and then thou shalt bring forth much fruit. We must all be so far at least martyrs of Christ as to die to ourselves for the love of him. Thus we shall be his servants and ministers indeed: thus we shall follow him, and where he is we shall also be; thus we shall come to be eternally honoured by his heavenly Father.
Conclude to honour this glorious martyr St. Laurence by an imitation of his fervour, zeal, and constancy in the cause of God, and of his ardent love for God and his neighbour. and learn from the consideration of the grievous torments the martyrs have endured for Christ, to suffer with patience, at least, whatever share there shall be allotted to thee in the cross of Christ.