SAINT LAWRENCE (?-258), deacon and martyr – Patron saint of deacons, librarians and poor people
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Lawrence, who was the last of the seven deacons of Rome to die during the Christian persecution under the Roman emperor, Valerian.
Not much is known of the early life of Lawrence, but one of the sources we have is a sermon given by Saint Augustine who described the last days and the death of this faithful deacon who served under Pope St. Sixtus II in Rome, who, himself, was martyred just four days earlier.
In his sermon, Saint Augustine writes, “Lawrence was a deacon of the Church of Rome. There he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s Blood; there, for the sake of Christ’s Name, he poured out his own blood. The blessed Apostle John clearly explained the mystery of the Lord’s Supper when he said, ‘Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too ought to lay down our lives for the brethren’ (1 John 3:16).”
It was after Pope Sixtus II was martyred on August 6th, Deacon Lawrence became the ranking official of the Church in Rome, having been responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor.
Emperor Valerian was in need of financing his war campaign to preserve his empire from the invading Persians, and had heard about the material wealth of the Church. Lawrence was ordered to present this wealth, with which he had been entrusted by the pope, to the Roman prefect.
On August 10, in the year 258, Lawrence appeared before the prefect, and was accompanied by a multitude of Rome’s crippled, blind, sick, and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church.
In anger, the prefect of Rome immediately ordered Lawrence’s execution sending him to his death, as tradition tells us, by being cooked alive on a gridiron.
Saint Lawrence gave his life for the well-being of others, just as Christ did. In the words of Saint Augustine, “In his life, he loved Christ; in his death, he followed in His footsteps.”
The Church’s social outreach to the poor and Saint Lawrence’s martyrdom had a tremendous impact on the early Church, all which facilitated many conversions. Just fifty years after his death, during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, a basilica was built over Saint Lawrence’s tomb, still one of the seven pilgrimage churches in Rome, and the anniversary of his martyrdom was kept in Rome as a solemn feast and is still celebrated to this date.
We commemorate his Feastday on August 10.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Lawrence)
“Father, You called Saint Lawrence to serve You by love and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom. Help us to be like him in loving You and doing Your work.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”