One of the most celebrated saints in the history of the Church, St Laurence is honoured on August 10th. His day is, unusually, given a high rank – Feast rather than Memorial – in the Roman Catholic Western calendar. The current edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints – an encyclopedia of saints – tells us; Laurence’s extraordinary fame is based mainly on fiction: on a quaint mixture of sacred irony (or sheer cheek) and miracle…
Well, good stories are instructive and inspiring, so let’s not be put off. Tradition tells us that Laurence was one of the seven deacons of Rome. When the emperor Valerian published edicts against Christinas in 257 Sixtus, the Bishop of Rome was arrested and executed. The story tells us that Laurence’s date of death was prophesied and in anticipation Laurence quickly sold the sacred vessels and gave the proceeds to the poor, widows and orphans.
The prefect of Rome summoned Laurence and demanded the treasures of the Church.
Laurence gathered ‘the blind, lame, lepers, orphans, windows etc’ and invited the prefect to inspect the Church’s real treasure.
The prefect regarded this as an insult and had Laurence tortured and killed by slowly roasting him.
The central images of the legend of Laurence have inspired individuals, and the church as a whole, for centuries. The power of Laurence is not only in the legend but in the holiness he has inspired.
- Today Laurence calls Christian congregations to have courage to stand up for social justice and to honour the needy.
- Laurence challenges Christians today to question their perspectives. A wealthy church is one containing the treasures of the Church – the poor, the marginalised, the weak and forgotten.
For us at St Chrysostom’s Laurence affirms us in our ministry to support justice in our society. His example invites us to honour those among us who seek asylum, those who are victims of human trafficking, those with few resources and other underprivileged people, and rejoice in them as treasures of our Church.