About St. Lawrence
225 — 258
Feast Day August 10
Patron Saint of cooks, chefs, the poor, firefighters and comedians.
We know very little about Lawrence's life but he is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly. If you read his story, you will understand why.
Lawrence, at 33 years of age, was a Roman deacon under Pope Saint Sixtus II in the year 258. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows, and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels of the altar to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have a considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Bring these treasures — the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him — only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned, and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasures of the Church which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church's crown."
The Prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it, and had Lawrence placed on it. After the martyr had suffered pain for a long time, he cheerfully declared: "I'm well done on this side. Turn me over!" From this derives his patronage of cooks, chefs, and comedians.
Tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of the holy life and death of Lawrence who understood the true heart of his vocation. It is still said to this day that all of Rome became Christian as a result of the faithful life, and the death, of this one humble deacon. He was buried in a cemetery on the Via Tiburtina. On that spot, Constantine later built a Basilica.