It is for good reason that the death of St. Lawrence has remained a permanent fixture on the Church’s calendar ever since the third century when he was martyred on August 10. Lawrence was the chief of seven deacons of the Church, and he was appointed to keep charge over the Church’s wealth. So not only did he oversee the receiving and distributing of offerings in the city — back when money was given to the Church to help those in need instead of storing it up for themselves — but Lawrence was also in charge of other riches: the sacred vessels, the ornate vestments and paraments, and it is even said that St. Lawrence was given the duty of preserving the chalice our Lord was said to have used at the last supper — the holy grail.
Except the city that Lawrence was called to serve was Rome. And the emperor at that time was Valerian I, who desired to confiscate the churches riches. It happened that the Romans summoned Lawrence and ordered him to hand over the treasures of the church. It’s said that Lawrence returned quickly to the churches, gave away the relics, paraments, vestments, and sacred vessels to the poor and the sick, and hid the holy grail. When he returned to the emperor’s greedy prefect, Lawrence brought the poor and the sick with him, saying that these are the treasures of the church.
It’s heartwarming to say the least, but the legend of St. Lawrence does not end there. For the Romans took this as a great insult and mockery. So they prepared a large iron grate with hot coals underneath, and after torturing him, they placed St. Lawrence upon it, slowly cooking him to death. Even then, Lawrence did not give in to despair. Rather, after some time on the iron grate, he cried out “It is well done. Turn me over!”
Oh that we would all learn from St. Lawrence. For in him you see one who suffered affliction and pain, willingly following in the steps of His Lord Jesus, who bore that suffering ahead of St. Lawrence. Knowing that his suffering was not in vain, his suffering would have its end in Christ, he was therefore free to suffer.
Stir up, O merciful Father, Your people to true brotherly affection that we may gladly do good and serve our neighbor, as did Your servant Saint Lawrence, when he emptied the treasure of the Church to help the poor; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.