Today the church honors a 3rd Century Deacon, St. Lawrence of Rome.
Lawrence was the chief of the seven deacons of Rome, charged with distributing the wealth and food of the Church to the poor.
In 257 Emperor Valerian began a massive campaign of persecution against the Church. All properties of the Church were confiscated, and worship was forbidden. Pope Sixtus II, who had just been the Bishop of Rome for a year, was apprehended in a cemetery along with his seven deacons as they were celebrating the liturgy, and all but Lawrence were beheaded and buried there.
Lawrence was left alive because, as the head Deacon, he knew where the Church had hidden the store of charitable gifts and treasures. He was tortured for three days, and then martyred on the 10th of August.
Lore around Lawrence’s martyrdom is legion, and though the topic is tragic and terrible, the stories of this witty Deacon are amusing all the same.
When told to go gather up the treasures of the Church, Lawrence ran from the cemetery and assembled a great number of paupers, orphans, widows, and the maimed, assembled them at the palace, and said, “Here is the treasure of the Church!”
Tradition claims Lawrence was sentenced to a long and painful death for his stunt, and as he was being tortured over a fire said, “I’m done on this side. Turn me over!”
It is not an accident that so much lore surrounds Lawrence’s execution. For Rome to execute a Roman citizen in such a way was shocking to the early church. Even citizenship couldn’t save them! The stories provided insight and relief in the shadow of such brutality.
Less Lawrence himself, but more-so the stories about him are a reminder to me, and should be to the church, that humor is a spiritual gift, and that while the world searches after gold, the Church should be finding ways to distribute it to those it is taken from.
-historical notes from Pfatteicher’s “New Book of Festivals & Commemorations”
-icon written by Theophilia at deviantart.com