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May 4

St Florian of Lorch - May 4

Saint Florian of Lorch

Layperson, Soldier, Martyr

(Around 250 – Around 304)

If you wish to know that I am not afraid of your torture, light the fire, and in the name of the Lord I will climb onto it.

Saint Florian of Lorch

Saint’s Life Story

Life as a Soldier and Firefighter

Florian was born in Aelium Cetium (present-day Sankt Pölten, Austria) in the 4th century around 250 A.D. Florian joined the Roman Army as a youth. Through hard work and determination, he advanced in the ranks and occupied a high administrative post in Noricum, now part of Austria. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organizing and leading firefighting brigades. Florian organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires.  In fact, Florian is claimed to have put out a house fire with a single bucket of water and is depicted this way in many images.                                                                                                                                    

Officer in the Roman Army

The Emperor Diocletian and his assistant Maximian liked Florian because of his abilities to solve problems and work with people. They saw Florian as a man capable of handling heavy responsibilities. In 303, the Diocletianic persecution of Christians ensued. The Emperors of Rome, Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius, issued a decree prohibiting any religion other than Rome’s paganistic tradition. This tradition involves offering sacrifices to God. Although Florian became an officer of the Roman army, he didn’t observe a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and confessed to his Christianity in anti-Christian times.                                     
   

His Martyrdom

The Emperor sent an assistant named Aquilius to the area controlled by Florian to kill all the Christians in the area, and to find out why Florian was not following orders. When he finally met up with Florian… he asked him why he refused to persecute the Christians to which Florian replied, “Tell the Emperor that I am a Christian and will suffer the same fate as the Christians.” Aquilius then offered him a raise and promotion if he would change his mind. Florian refused. Aquilius was outraged and had his soldiers beat him with whips, yet Florian stood steadfast. He told Aquilius that he had suffered many wounds for the Emperor – why not a few scratches for his own beliefs? His courage scared Aquilius who feared that Florian would lead others to rebel.

Did Not Follow Orders

It was for these reasons that the Emperor was shocked to learn that Florian was not following his order to punish all Christians in his area. This punishment included burning Christian churches and books, firing all Christians from their jobs, putting them in prison without good reason, and finally forcing them to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Florian did not carry out his orders to persecute all Christians in the area, and, thus, was sentenced to death by fire. 
 

Legendary Final Acts

His legendary “Acts” state that he gave himself up at Lorch to the soldiers of Aquilinus, and the governor of Lorch, when they were rounding up the Christians. Standing on the funeral pyre, Florian is reputed to have challenged the Roman soldiers to light the fire, saying “If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames.” Apprehensive to his words, instead of burning Florian, he was flogged and flayed after making the bold confession. Not willing to take a chance, Aquilius decided to drown Florian by tying a giant stone around his neck and throwing him into the river Enns. He was twice scourged, half-flayed alive, set on fire, and finally thrown into the river Enns with a stone around his neck. His body was later recovered by a pious woman, and he was buried honorably.
 
Because of his stand and resistance to death by fire… St. Florian became the protector of firefighters all over the world.
 

Patron Saint of Fire Service

About 600 years later, sometime between 900-955, a monastery was erected near Florian’s tomb, and subsequently the village of St. Florian grew up around it. His body, recovered and was eventually removed to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, near Linz. St. Florian was adopted as patron saint of Poland after Pope Lucius III, in 1138, consented to the request of King Saint Casimir of Poland and to the Bishop of Cracow, to send relics of Florian to that country. Since that time, St. Florian has been regarded as a patron of Poland as well as of Linz, Upper Austria and of firemen. Soon after, a person was saved from a fire by invoking St. Florian’s name. Since then, Florian has been invoked against fire and has generally been regarded in most countries as the patron saint of the fire service.

Beatified:           Pre-Congregation

Canonized:        Pre-Congregation

Feast Day:         May 4

Patron Saint:    Chimney Sweeps, Firefighters; Linz, Austria; Poland

Source:

Reflection

For most of us, we do not face martyrdom when we profess our faith. Imagine being placed in a situation like St. Florian, where you were required to choose between your life and your faith. Saint Florian did actually handed himself over to be killed due to his profession of faith. Saint Florian intercede for us through our daily prayers for those who still cannot openly profess their faith without fear of persecution in many countries throughout the world.

How will you praise Jesus for giving you your faith? Are you thankful for your ability to profess your faith without fear of persecution? 

Prayers

Here is a popular prayer to St. Florian, often prayed by firefighters for heavenly assistance.

Almighty God, Protector of all Mankind,
Your strength, power and wisdom are a beacon of light to all men. Give special guidance to Firemen and Firefighters so that we may be protected from harm while performing our duty. Help me with Your loving care while I work to save the lives and property of all people young and old.
Give me the courage and alertness to protect my neighbors and all others whom I am pledged to aid when involved in fire or accident.
Amen.

Source: Prayer to St. Florian for all firefighters (aleteia.org)

Saint Florian of Lorch, you had the strength from God to stand up for your faith. You were not being bribed by the earthly riches of a promotion.  Instead, your martyr’s death gained you the eternal everlasting riches of heaven. May you intercede for us, to help us have the courage to stand up for our faith on our life’s journey.

Saint Florian of Lorch, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – Why is St. Florian the patron saint of firefighters?

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Florian of Lorch

Catholic Online – St. Florian

CatholicSaints.info – Saint Florian of Lorch

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Florian (d.304)

Saint of the Day – Saint Florian

Wikipedia – Saint Florian

Video Link

St. Florian – YouTube Video (Hall of Flame Fire Museum)