St. Laurence the Martyr

Laudetur Iesus Christus! Today Tuesday August 9 is the vigil of St. Laurence (or Lawrence) the Martyr, a day of penance and preparation for tomorrow’s feast day honoring the deacon who was martyred on the gridiron. St. Laurence’s martyrdom was also preceded six days prior by the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus II, making St. Laurence the highest ranking clergy in Rome at that time. Incidentally, this vigil day also commemorates St. Romanus, a soldier that St. Laurence converted shortly before his martyrdom.

Tomorrow’s feast day retains its importance in the Church as it is one of the few feast days that still retains its own vigil the day prior, similar to the vigil of the Assumption (August 14), Vigil of the Nativity (December 24), etc. This is not to be confused in the Novus Ordo with the concept of anticipatory Masses, which are offered the evening before a feast or Sunday. As Greg DiPippo in the New Liturgical Movement notes, a vigil retains its own liturgical day with its own set of reading and prospers, and has violet vestments:

Latin Mass – Feast of St. Laurence:

Tomorrow Wednesday August 10 there will be the regular 6pm Latin Mass at St. Ann parish, which has a statue of the deacon-martyr in the main church.

Importance of the Feast of St. Laurence

Some may ask – why is the Church giving extra attention to one of the many important martyrs who died in Rome? As Dom Prosper Gueranger explains, it was St. Laurence’s heroic martyrdom which brought about the end of paganism in Rome, allowing its eventually conversion to the Catholic faith:

Just as Peter and Paul are the riches, not of Rome alone, but of the whole world, so Laurence is called the honor of the world, for he, as it were, personified the courage of martyrdom. At the beginning of this month, we saw Stephen himself come to blend his dignity of Protomartyr with the glory of Sixtus II’s deacon, by sharing his tomb. In Laurence, it seemed that both the struggle and the victory of martyrdom reached their highest point; persecution, it is true, was renewed during the next half century, and made many victims, yet his triumph was considered as the death-blow to paganism.

“The devil,” says Prudentius, “struggled fiercely with God’s witness, but he was himself wounded and prostrated forever. The death of Christ’s martyr gave the death-blow to the worship of idols, and from that day Vesta was powerless to prevent her temple from being deserted. All these Roman citizens, brought up in the superstitions taught by Numa, hasten, O Christ, to thy courts, singing hymns to thy martyr. Illustrious senators, flamens and priests of Lupercus venerate the tombs of Apostles and Saints. We see patricians and matrons of the noblest families vowing to God the children in whom their hopes are centered. The Pontiff of the idols, whose brow but yesterday was bound with sacred fillet, now signs himself with the cross, and the Vestal Virgin Claudia visits thy sanctuary, O Laurence.”

Traditions for the feast of St. Laurence

There are some customs and traditions that accompany the feast of St. Laurence and are described in these articles:

In closing, we share the words of the poet Prudentius, who is quoted by Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, for August 10:

“Once the mother of false gods, but now the bride of Christ, O Rome, it is through Laurence thou art victorious! Thou hadst conquered haughty monarchs and subjected nations to thine empire; but though thou hadst overcome barbarism, thy glory was incomplete till thou hadst vanquished the unclean idols. This was Laurence’s victory, a combat bloody yet not tumultuous like those of Camillus or of Cesar; it was the contest of faith, wherein self is immolated, and death is overcome by death. What words, what praises suffice to celebrate such a death? How can I worthily sing so great a martyrdom.”

St. Laurence, pray for us, pray for Rome!