Laurence

Deacon and Martyr at Rome

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Laurence
Deacon and Martyr at Rome

Picture courtesy of Monastery Icons

Laurence was one of the 7 deacons in Rome during the time of Pope Sixtus II (d. 258). Lawrence was still young when Sixtus II appointed him first among the 7 deacons who served in the patriarchal church. He is therefore called "archdeacon of Rome", a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor and needy.

St Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of August 258, the Emperor Valerian issued an edict that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death; Pope Sixtus was arrested and executed almost at once.

Laurence was also arrested and, according to tradition, Valerian offered Deacon Lawrence a way out of sure death. If he would show him where the Church's great gold and silver were located, he would issue an order of clemency, sparing his life so that he could continue his work. St Ambrose is the earliest source for the narrative that St Lawrence asked for 3 days to gather the wealth. He worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the 3rd day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect and brought a crowd of beggars and cripples and other poor people before the prefect, saying, “These are the true treasures of the church.” The legend persists that the Prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it, and had Lawrence placed on it. Witnesses recorded the public martyrdom. The deacon cheerfully offered himself to the Lord Jesus and even joked with his executioners! Hence St Lawrence's association with the gridiron. After the martyr had suffered pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he cheerfully declared: "I'm well done on this side. Turn me over!" From this derives his becoming the patron saint of cooks, chefs, and comedians.

The tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of St Laurance actions and his faith. There are 5 basilicas in ancient Rome dedicated to this faithful deacon.

BORN: 31 December AD 225, Valencia, or less likely Osca, Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis (Spain).

DIED: 10 August AD 258, Rome.