Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
“Lavishly he gives to the poor…” (Ps 112:9)
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence, who is often portrayed as the patron saint of stand up comics, but who we ought to remember just as much for his heroic generosity before his martyrdom. St. Paul makes bold claims about the Lord’s love for a cheerful giver and the abundance He bestows on those who sow bountifully. Our Lord makes even greater claims upon us not merely to sow something external to ourselves, but speaking primarily about Himself He says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.” (Jn 12:24) How is it that we can avoid remaining just a grain of wheat? How can we pursue the promise of a bountiful harvest?
Lawrence was one of seven main deacons in Rome in the year 258. When the Emperor ordered that Christian clergy be executed in August of that year, the pope and four deacons were martyred, leaving Lawrence to care for the Church in Rome. Authorities came to Lawrence and demanded that he give up the supposed wealth of the Christians. Lawrence agreed to deliver all the Church’s treasure in three days, once he had had a chance to gather it all. Over the next three days, he gathered together all those in the city whom the Church supported in their poverty or sickness. When the Roman authorities came to collect their money, Lawrence showed them the people he had gathered saying, “Behold the treasure of the Church!” Infuriated, the Romans martyred Lawrence by burning him slowly on a large gridiron. The saint is said to have told his executioners after a time on the gridiron, “You can turn me over now, I’m done on this side.”
St. Lawrence held nothing back. In life, he dedicated himself to relieving the needs of the poor in Rome. He truly saw them as far more valuable than any other treasure to be amassed, and sought to use every means he could to help them. Let us ask ourselves, do we treasure those in need as much as our Provident Lord? May St. Lawrence pray for us, that we too may be witnesses to God’s love.