“Turn me over. I am done on this side." Feast of Saint Lawrence, 10th August
With the current Coronavirus pandemic far from over, where some have lost loved ones or know of those who have lost loved ones, to talk about laughter and humour might seem a little out of place. However, healthy laughter is a truly amazing gift from God. It helps us cope with the sadness and grief of everyday life. Have you ever felt angry, frightened, sad, or depressed and then someone has said something to make you laugh and that made your heart feel better?
A good comedian can see the humour in everyday life and can help us to see the funny side of what can otherwise be an exasperating situation. A good comedian can also help us laugh at ourselves too. It is a good thing not to take ourselves too seriously. After all, is not God ultimately in control of every situation we find ourselves in?
Which leads me to today, 10th August, the feast day of one of my favourite saints and namesake, St. Lawrence, the patron saint of comedians! By having so much trust in God's Divine Providence, he kept his sense of humour even in the most dire of situations.
Tradition tells us that St. Lawrence was born of Orentius and Patientia, both martyrs, in the city of Huesca, Spain. In the year 257, Pope St. Sixtus II appointed St. Lawrence as the first of the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal Church of Rome. He was the most important of the deacons, entrusted with the treasury and riches of the Church and with the distribution of alms among the poor.
The following year, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict ordering the immediate death of all bishops, priests, and deacons. Pope St. Sixtus II was captured and beheaded on August 6, 258 with the other six deacons. Tradition says that St. Lawrence met him on his way to martyrdom and said, “Father, where are you going without your deacon?” And the Pope answered, “I am not leaving you, my son, in three days you will follow me.”
With the death of Pope Sixtus II, the prefect of Rome summoned St. Lawrence and demanded that he turn over the riches of the Church. St. Lawrence asked for three days to gather them, and during this time, he worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, in order to prevent its being seized by the prefect. He then invited all the poor, lame, beggars, orphans, widows, elderly, blind, and lepers whom he assisted, and on the third day, he appeared before the prefect. He presented to him the poor and the sick he had congregated and said, “This is the Church’s treasure!” This infuriated the greedy pagan who sentenced him to a slow, cruel death by roasting on a gridiron.
The slow fire roasted his flesh little by little, but St. Lawrence’s love for God burned stronger still. And in the midst of his atrocious sufferings, by the strength of God’s grace, he managed to say, “Turn me over. I am done on this side.” He prayed and offered his sufferings for the conversion of Rome and for the spreading of the Catholic Faith throughout the world. Just before he died, St. Lawrence said, “It is cooked enough now.” Thus he entered into the glory of heaven, re-joining the other six deacons and Pope St. Sixtus II who had preceded him in martyrdom. Several senators who were present at his death were so powerfully moved by his heroic fortitude and piety that they became Christians on the spot. These noblemen took the martyr’s body and gave it an honourable burial in the Veran field, near the road to Tivoli, on the 10th of August, 258. Within 50 years of his martyrdom, the Christian Emperor Constantine had a patriarchal church built over his tomb, the site now known as the Basilica of St. Lawrence-Outside-the-Walls, where his relics can be venerated today.
St. Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Catholic Church. He is one of the patrons of Rome, where one finds two basilicas and many churches dedicated to him. In Huesca, where his family home once stood, now stands a Basilica built in his honour and which houses relics of St. Lawrence, including one of his fingers. His feast day is August 10 and he is the patron saint of firefighters, cooks, comedians, librarians, and students.
St. Lawrence and other good comedians teach us to see the humour in tough, everyday situations, almost any situation we find ourselves in. The grace of a sense of humour enables us to laugh at ourselves and to appreciate the bright side of life. Through the gift of laughter, the yoke becomes easy and the burden light. As Charlie Chaplin is purported to have said, "A day without laughter is a day wasted".
Praise the Lord for his gift of humour.
Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, Pray for us.