Saint Lawrence of Rome

Also known as

  • Laurence
  • Laurent
  • Laurentius
  • Lorenço
  • Lorenzo

Memorial

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Third-century archdeacon of Rome, distributor of alms, and “keeper of the treasures of the church” in a time when Christianity was outlawed. On 6 August 258, by decree of Emperor Valerian, Pope Saint Sixtus II and six deacons were beheaded, leaving Lawrence as the ranking Church official in Rome.

While in prison awaiting execution Sixtus reassured Lawrence that he was not being left behind; they would be reunited in four days. Lawrence saw this time as an opportunity to disperse the material wealth of the church before the Roman authorities could lay their hands on it. On 10 August Lawrence was commanded to appear for his execution, and to bring along the treasure with which he had been entrusted by the pope. When he arrived, the archdeacon was accompanied by a multitude of Rome‘s crippled, blind, sick, and indigent. He announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. Martyr.

Lawrence’s care for the poor, the ill, and the neglected have led to his patronage of them. His work to save the material wealth of the Church, including its documents, brought librarians and those in related fields to see him as a patron, and to ask for his intercession. And his incredible strength and courage when being grilled to death led to his patronage of cooks and those who work in or supply things to the kitchen. The meteor shower that follows the passage of the Swift-Tuttle comet was known in the middle ages as the “burning tears of Saint Lawrence” because they appear at the same time as Lawrence’s feast.

Born

Died

  • cooked to death on a gridiron on 10 August 258
  • buried in the cemetery of Saint Cyriaca on the road to Tivoli, Italy
  • tomb was opened by Pelagius to inter the body of Saint Stephen the Martyr
  • his mummified head removed to the Quirinal Chapel
  • the gridiron believed to have been his deathbed is in San Lorenzo in Lucina
  • garments in Our Lady’s Chapel in the Lateran Palace

Patronage

Representation

Images

Readings

With the robe of joyfulness, alleluya,
Our Lord hath this day clothed His soldier, Laurence.
May Thy faithful’s joyous assemblage clap their hands
More cheerfully than they have heretofore.
Today the noble martyr offered pleasing sacrifice to God,
Today he, being grievously tested,
Endured unto the end the torment of his fire;
And shrank not from offering his limbs to punishments most grievous.
Before the ruler he is summoned,
And settlement is made upon the Church’s hidden holdings.
But he by words enticing is unmoved, and is unshaken
By the torments of the ruler’s avarice.
Valerian is laughed to scorn,
And the Levite’s liberal hand,
When he is asked for payments,
Giveth to the gathered poor.
For he was their minister of charity,
Giving them abundance from his means.
Therefore the prefect is enraged,
And a glowing bed made ready.
The torment-bearing instrument,
The gridiron of his suffering,
Roasteth his very viscera,
But he laugheth it to scorn.
The martyr sweateth in his agony,
In hopes of crown and recompense
Which is allotted those with faith,
Who struggle for the sake of Christ.
The court of heaven rejoiceth
For his warfare-waging,
For he hath prevailed this day
Against the lackeys of wickedness.
That we, then, may attain the gift of life,
By this our patron, be glad, O our choir,
Singing in the church upon his feast-day
A joyful alleluya.
from the Mass of Saint Laurence, Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion Press

O Laurence, thou David, thou great-martyr,
Thou mighty warrior and judgment-seat of the Emperor,
Thou didst set at nought the blood-stained hands
Of thy tormentors.
Thou wast a follower of Him Who is desirable and mighty,
Who with His hand alone can conquer the cruel despot’s strongholds,
And Whose love maketh His warriors holy,
And generous with their blood.
Insofar as thou sawest Him in the loss of this present life,
Thou didst scorn the emblems of the Cæsar, and laugh the judge’s threats to scorn.
In vain it is the headsman rendeth thy fingernails,
It is in vain the pyre’s burning thy gridiron doth enfold.
The impious man, the City’s prefect grieveth,
Conquered by a broiled fish—the food of Christ.
This honeycomb of the Lord rejoiceth, living with Him,
Rising again with Him, filled to the full with Christ.
O Laurence, wreathed with laurel amongst warriors,
O unconquerable David of the everlasting King:
Ever entreat with Him to pardon His lowest servants,
O martyr and mighty foot-soldier!
- from the Mass for the Octave (Apodosis) of Saint Laurence, 17 August, Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion Press

The Roman Church commends to us today the anniversary of the triumph of Saint Lawrence. For on this day he trod the furious pagan world underfoot and flung aside its allurements, and so gained victory over Satan’s attack on his faith.

As you have often heard, Lawrence was a deacon of the Church at Rome. There he ministered the sacred blood of Christ; there for the sake of Christ’s name he poured out his own blood. Saint John the apostle was evidently teaching us about the mystery of the Lord’s supper when he wrote: “Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” My brethren, Lawrence understood this and, understanding, he acted on it. In his life he loved Christ; in his death he followed in his footsteps.

Brethren, we too must imitate Christ if we truly love him. We shall not be able to render better return on that love than by modeling our lives on his. “Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in his steps.” The holy martyrs followed Christ even to shedding their life’s blood, even to reproducing the very likeness of his passion. They followed him, but not they alone. It is not true that the bridge was broken after the martyrs crossed; nor is it true that after they had drunk from it, the fountain of eternal life dried up.

On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of him is true: “He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

I tell you again and again, my brethren, that on no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of him is true: “He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” - from a sermon by Saint Augustine

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Lawrence of Rome“. Saints.SQPN.com. 26 August 2014. Web. 1 September 2014. <>