11th August, 2020

Fr Gabriel's Homily for the Patronal Solemnity of St Laurence

Ampleforth Abbey

HOMILY FOR THE PATRONAL SOLEMNITY OF ST LAURENCE

10 AUGUST 2020

Introduction

We celebrate today our patronal feast of St Laurence, 3rd century Roman deacon and martyr and we welcome all those of you joining us. I am Fr Gabriel.

We acquired St Laurence as a patron in the early 17th century, when a new community of exiled English monks acquired a collegiate church which was dedicated to St Laurence in Dieulouard in Lorraine. They came to be known as Laurentians, and St Laurence continued as patron when they settled in Ampleforth at the beginning of the 19th century. In joy and thanksgiving we, the community of St Laurence in Ampleforth, together with you our friends, celebrate his feast.

We also offer this Mass for the intention of our August Chapter, which begins today, that we may be open, through the prayers of St Laurence, to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Homily

Today’s gospel comes from the part in St John’s Gospel in which Jesus, shortly before his passion and death, expresses the meaning of that death and links it in a very direct way to the passion and death of his followers, who come after him, followers such as our patron St Laurence, followers such as we are called to be.

There are three successive points in this gospel extract. Firstly it is the grain which appears to die and to be buried in the ground that in fact rises to produce a rich harvest. Secondly, it is the life which a person appears to lose and hate, that in fact is preserved for eternal life. And then thirdly, those who serve Jesus follow him and where he is, on the cross and in eternal life, there they will be too.

The first two of these points emphasize the difference between what appears to be, and what is in fact the case. They make no easy point, because it is so very easy rather to judge by appearances, by what our impressions and senses most immediately tell us, by what seems physically and therefore ‘really’ to be the case. Jesus’ saying: ‘Anyone who loves his life, loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life’ comes, with variations in wording, in all four gospels, once in Mark and John, twice in Matthew and Luke. These six occurrences do not make it any the easier to believe or more particularly to live out, to enact them in one’s life. I think most of us most of the time give the appearance of loving our lives very much not hating them, holding them very precious indeed.

But those who profess to follow Christ, those who are his servants, his deacons, should expect to be where Christ is, that is on the cross, treating their lives as of no account, trusting thereby to gain eternal life, honoured by the Father, yielding a rich harvest. Such was and is St Laurence, who professed his faith, served Christ in the poor, cured the afflicted and endured cheerfully the torture of death by burning on a gridiron to win eternal life, to be with Christ. In claiming his patronage we seek, all difficulties notwithstanding, to have some share in his service and following of Christ, tall order though it be, that we too may be with Christ where he is, enduring our cross that in Christ we may share his victory.

Were this not challenge enough, there is the particular point of the cheerfulness. Our lives are to be given up and away not in a grim way, but cheerfully, like St Laurence who spoke in a light hearted way in the midst of the torture of the fire, who was as St Paul puts in in the second reading a cheerful giver, and who therefore God especially loves. This is enjoined on us in a double way for us who not only have St Laurence as our patron, but our one canonized saint St Alban Roe, renowned for the same cheerfulness, especially on the way to and at the scaffold.

How to account for this cheerfulness. It must be that Christ is with them in their sufferings, enabling them to bear all things for the love of him. And in Matins recently we had a second reading from the Confessions of St Augustine, in which he made a significant distinction: we do not love what we endure, but we love to endure (Confessions 10:28). Were it the first of these, loving the pains themselves, this would be something morbid and masochistic; but rather we love to endure the pains for the sake of Christ, to be with him in the suffering, in order to be with him in the incomparable gift of eternal life.

So we ask the prayers on his feast day of our patron St Laurence that we may have the same careless disregard for ourselves as he had, the same determination and perseverance to follow the Lord and above all the same cheerfulness, that we may rejoice and give thanks to the Lord always, in all things.

 

 

 

 

Bidding prayers

We bring our prayers to God in this Mass

Let us pray for the grace to endure all things for the love of Christ, losing our lives in him that in him we may keep them for eternal life.

Lord in your mercy

Let us pray for all those who are unable to see any point or purpose in their lives, who experience no joy and who are tempted to despair, that the example and prayers of the martyrs of Christ may be for them comfort and an assurance of hope.

Lord in your mercy

Let us pray for Fr Abbot and for all our absent brethren, who are unable to be with us today for our celebration and for our Chapter.

Lord in your mercy

Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our Chapter today and tomorrow, that we may be guided and preserved always in wisdom, in faith, in hope, in love

Lord in your mercy

Let us pray among so many intentions and needs and so many who we know who have died recently for White Mavura, Br Placid’s father, and for an Old Amplefordian, Ben Connery, who has died in tragic circumstances.

Lord in your mercy

Let us ask the prayers of Mary, mother of sorrows, comfort of the afflicted and of St Laurence and St Alban Roe

Hail Mary

We stand before you Lord, seeking the mercy that we need and asking that this offering of ours may be caught up in the Eucharist of your Son. Through the same Christ our Lord.