The name of the martyr, Saint Lawrence, is commemorated in all parts of the world by the dedication of many churches to him, who met death so nobly in the year 258. He was the Roman deacon and secretary of Pope Sixtus II, who upon the 8th of August in that year was seized at the altar by a band of soldiers, who carried him before the Prefect. On his way, Lawrence met the Holy Father thus captured, and begged to accompany him, but Sixtus answered that his deacon should follow him in three days, but by a rougher, harder road. The Saint understood by this that he was to be martyred thus soon, so he returned home to put all his affairs in order, and to distribute large sums of money amongst the poor of Rome.
The Prefect was told of the magnificent alms which the deacon was bestowing, and believing that he must have the care of immense treasures, sent for him and said, “You Christians complain that you are harshly treated, but I threaten you with neither rack nor torture; I only ask what you can give me with the greatest ease – some of your costly vessels and golden candlesticks, and all the coin in your possession.”
Lawrence replied that it was true the Christian Church was very rich, but that he must have time to make an inventory of all its treasures, upon which the Prefect allowed a day’s delay, and the Saint set about visiting all the poor in the city, desiring them to present themselves in the court the following morning.
When the appointed time came, Lawrence was there, but on being asked for his inventory of the treasures of the Church, he pointed to the assembled poor, saying:
“These are the jewels of the Church – these are they in whom Christ lives.”
The Prefect was furious with anger, and turned to Lawrence with an expression of rage upon his countenance, whereupon the holy deacon answered:
“Why should you be angry? I show you redeemed men, who are the true gold of Jesus Christ. You wanted gold – I put the Church’s gold before you. As for the treasures you sought, the hands of the poor have carried them to the treasury of heaven.”
Then the Prefect insisted that Lawrence should deny Christ, and upon his firm refusal, he was seized, stripped of his clothes, and torn almost to pieces with the rods with which he was beaten. But he still persisted in the faith of Jesus> so that a fresh method of torture was tried, and a fire of coals was prepared, over which Lawrence was placed on a gridiron and slowly roasted to death. As he was stretched upon this cruel bed, the Saint cried out:
“I care nothing for your torments. I worship God, and God alone,” and when the executioners piled up the glowing coals under him, he laughed and cried out, “I give God thanks.”
An angel from heaven was sent by God to strengthen His servant in his terrible sufferings, and presently he turned to the Prefect, saying, “One side of the roast is done enough now, you may order me to be turned and eaten if you like, but you cannot seize upon the Church’s treasures.”
The torture was long, but at last his release approached, and the noble martyr prayed and thanked God that he had been deemed worthy to suffer for His sake, and then his triumph was over – Lawrence’s soul was in heaven, and only his burnt and blackened body remained to the cruel Prefect, who gave it up to the hands of the Christians, who buried it that same night.
– from , by Mary F Seymour