Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
Image: Saint Lawrence crowned by Baby Jesus
By Jean M. Heimann
Today is the feast of Saint Lawrence, deacon and martyr. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome. In 258, he was martyred along with Pope Sixtus II and other deacons.
St. Lawrence was in charge of caring for the poor and had a great love for the destitute and the needy. He was the distributor of alms and “keeper of the treasures of the Church” during a time when Christianity was declared illegal. The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. Thus, he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church’s treasure to him. Lawrence distributed the material wealth of the Church before the Roman authorities had the chance to steal it. He gave it to the poor. When he returned in three days, he was accompanied by all the poor and sick people who were being supported by the Church. He gathered the lame, the blind, the disabled, the widows, and the orphans and presented them to the Prefect, announcing: “This is the Church’s treasure!”
In great fury, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. Lawrence was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little. Saint Lawrence said: “I offer myself as a sacrifice to God for an odor of sweetness.” Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. “Turn me over. “I’m done on this side!” And just prior to his death, he said, “It’s cooked enough now.” Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. With that, he went to His heavenly reward.
Lawrence’s care for the poor, the ill, and the abandoned have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including its documents, caused librarians to view him as a patron, while his extraordinary strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his being named the patron of cooks. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the Middle Ages as the “burning tears of Saint Lawrence” because they appear at the same time as Lawrence’s feast.
Saint Lawrence is the patron of: brewers, butchers, comedians, cooks, deacons, laundry workers, librarians, poor people, restaurateurs, seminarians, stained glass workers, students, and wine makers.
“Sheltered under the name of Jesus Christ, I do not fear these pains, for they do not last long.
~ Saint Lawrence
St. Augustine Quote on Saint Lawrence
St. Augustine preached several homilies on Lawrence: “The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers’ (1 Jn 3:16)…. Lawrence understood this and, understanding, he acted on it…. In his life he love Christ; in his death he followed in his footsteps.”
Almighty God, who called your deacon Lawrence to serve you with deeds of love, and gave him the crown of martyrdom: Grant that we, following his example, may fulfil your commandments by defending and supporting the poor, and by loving you with all our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.