Before praying the Angelus at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict visited the Vatican Basilica of San Lorenzo to celebrate the 1,750th anniversary of St. Lawrence’s martyrdom.
In his homily the Holy Father spoke of the significance of Advent, explaining that "it means remembering the first coming of the Lord in the flesh, with our minds on His definitive return; at the same time, it means recognizing that Christ is present among us and is our traveling companion in the life of the Church which celebrates His mystery."
"'Come Lord Jesus,' this ardent invocation of the early Christian community must also become our constant aspiration, the aspiration of the Church in all ages which longs and prepares for the meeting with her Lord: 'Come today, Lord, help us, enlighten us, give us peace, help us to overcome violence, come Lord, we pray in these weeks, Lord bring Your face to shine and we will be saved.'"
The Pope then turned his attention to St. Lawrence’s care for the poor, "his generous service to the Church of Rome in the field of charity work, and his faithfulness to the Pope to the point of following him in the supreme trial of martyrdom."
While Benedict XVI noted that everyone knows about Lawrence’s charitable work, he recounted an event from World War II that is not so familiar.
On July 19, 1943, "a violent bombardment inflicted grave damage to the building and to the entire neighborhood, spreading death and destruction," the Pope recalled.
"History will never forget the indelible memory of the generous act undertaken on that occasion by my venerated predecessor, Pius XII, who immediately set out to save and console the hard-hit people among the smoldering ruins," he said.
"Nor do I forget," he added, "that this basilica houses the tombs of two other great figures," Blessed Pope Pius IX and Alcide De Gasperi "who was the wise and provident guide of Italy during the difficult post-war years of reconstruction and, at the same time, an outstanding statesman with a broad-ranging Christian vision of Europe."
After mentioning the invitation in today's Gospel 'to remain vigilant,' the Holy Father explained how this means "to follow the Lord, to chose what He chose, to Love what He loved, to conform our lives to His."
"Vigilance," Benedict stated, "means spending every instant of our time within the horizon of His love without allowing ourselves to be cast down by the inevitable difficulties and daily problems. This is what St. Lawrence did, this is what we must do, and we ask the Lord to give us His grace, that Advent may become a stimulus for everyone to advance in this direction."