St. Lawrence, Protector of the Weak
When I have some free time, I enjoy reading about the lives of the saints.
How wonderful it is that in the Catholic Church we have a rich tradition of holy men and women who have gone before us. They inspire us and encourage us because they have given great witness to Christ.
I recently came across an article about St. Lawrence. Though not much is known about the life of this saint, the Church will always remember him for his love of Christ and for those who were poor and suffering in the world.
St. Lawrence was a deacon and one of only seven people in charge of giving help to the poor, especially widows and orphans, in third century Rome. During this time, the emperor of Rome, Valerian, began persecuting Christians. He condemned the Pope, St. Sixtus II and four of his companions to death. As Pope Sixtus was led to his execution, St. Lawrence asked him where he was going without his deacon. The Pope replied, “I am not leaving you, in three days you will be with me.”
St. Lawrence hoped for a martyr’s death and gave all his possessions to the poor in Rome. He also gathered expensive vessels and chalices used at Mass and sold them so even more money could be distributed to the needy.
The prefect of Rome during that time was a greedy pagan. He heard of St. Lawrence’s generosity to the poor and told him that if he wished to spare his own life, he must hand over the riches of the Church in Rome to the Roman government. St. Lawrence agreed to the demand but requested three days to complete the task.
During those three days, St. Lawrence wandered the streets of Rome, gathering the sick, the poor, the lame, and those with leprosy. He then invited the Roman prefect to collect the riches of the Church. The prefect demanded an explanation, so St. Lawrence told him, “These before you are the riches of the Church of Rome.”
St. Lawrence hoped for a martyr’s death and gave all his possessions to the poor in Rome.
This infuriated the Roman prefect. He condemned St. Lawrence to a cruel and slow death. He was tied to an iron grid that slowly roasted his flesh over an open fire. Tradition tells us that St. Lawrence was so filled with joy to suffer a martyr’s death that he claimed he could not even feel the fire.
Like all saints, St. Lawrence had remarkable faith and enviable fortitude. There is something about his story that deeply touches me—perhaps it is his dedication to those in need or his courage even in life’s darkest moments. In my ministry at Mercy Home, I am faced with difficult stories and those who in desperate need. St. Lawrence is an inspiration to me—I hope you, too, are touched in a special way by his life and legacy.