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E02724: Augustine of Hippo (North Africa), preaches in Latin a sermon for the feast of *Laurence (deacon and martyr of Rome, S00037), quoting the story of his martyrdom and referring to his vivid cult and favours, most probably miracles, which are obtained through him at Rome, and complaining about the smallness of the local congregation attending the feast. Sermon 303, preached in the late 420s, in North Africa, possibly in Milevis.

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posted on 20.04.2017, 00:00 by robert
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 303

1. Beati Laurentii illustre martyrium est, sed Romae, non hic: tantam enim uideo uestram paucitatem. Quam non potest abscondi Roma, tam non potest abscondi Laurentii corona. Sed quare adhuc istam ciuitatem lateret, scire non possum. Ergo pauci audite pauca: quia et nos in hac lassitudine corporis et aestibus non possumus multa.
Diaconus erat, secutus apostolos: tempore post apostolos fuit. Cum ergo persecutio, quam modo ex euangelio audistis praedictam fuisse christianis, Romae, sicut in caeteris locis, uehementer arderet, et tanquam ab archidiacono postulatae essent res ecclesiae; ille respondisse fertur, mittantur me cum uehicula, in quibus apportem opes ecclesiae.

'The blessed Laurence's martyrdom is famous, but at Rome, not here; such as, I mean, is the smallness of the congregation which I see. Just as Rome cannot be hidden, so Laurence's crown cannot be hidden. But why it should still escape the notice of this city, I cannot tell. So listen, the few of you who are here, to just a few words; because I too, in this bodily weariness and this heat, am not capable of much. He was a deacon, following the apostles; he was after the apostles' time. So when a persecution, which as you heard just now from the gospel had been foretold to the Christians, was raging furiously at Rome as in other places, and the goods of the Church were demanded from him, as being the archdeacon, he is reported to have replied: "Let carts be sent with me, in which to bring the wealth of the Church".'


There follows a story in which Laurence fills the carts with the poor and returns with them saying that these are the wealth of the Church. Subsequently Laurence is roasted on a gridiron, bears the torment with calmness and asks the executioner to put him on the other side, since the first one is already cooked.

Tale duxit martyrium: ista gloria coronatus est. Beneficia eius Romae tam clara sunt, ut numerari omnino non possint.

'Such was the martyrdom he achieved; that was the glory he was crowned with. The favours he obtains at Rome are so notable, they simply cannot be counted.'

In what follows Augustine encourages his audience to follow the example of Laurence.


Text: Patrologia Latina 38, 1393 and 1394; Translation: Hill 1994, 313; Summary: Robert Wiśniewski.

History

Evidence ID

E02724

Saint Name

Laurence, martyr of Rome, ob. 258 : S00037

Saint Name in Source

Laurentius

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

397

Evidence not after

430

Activity not before

397

Activity not after

430

Place of Evidence - Region

Latin North Africa

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Milevis

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Milevis Carthage Carthago Karthago قرطاج‎ Qarṭāj Mçidfa Carthage

Major author/Major anonymous work

Augustine of Hippo

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Sermon/homily

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Oral transmission of saint-related stories

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle after death

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Source

The sermon is tentatively dated to 425-430 on the basis of intertextual references and its place in the collection of Augustine's sermons. Its beginning suggests that it was not preached in Hippo, and since we know that in those years Augustine, who did not travel much any more, spent some time in Milevis, it was possibly delivered in that city.

Discussion

It is difficult to say whether the story of the martyrdom was read before the sermon. Augustine refers directly only to the New Testament readings and seems to quote Laurence's story that he knew by heart. It is interesting to remark that he felt obliged to explain to his audience that Laurence, who had died in the middle of the 3rd century, was not contemporary to the Apostles.

Bibliography

Text: Migne, J.P., Patrologia Latina 38 (Paris, 1865). Translation: Hill, E., The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century III/8. Sermons 273-305A for the Saints ‬(New York: New City Press, 1994). Dating: Kunzelmann, A., "Die Chronologie der sermones des hl. Augustinus," Miscellanea Agostiniana, vol. 2 (Rome: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1931), 417-452.

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