Most of what we know about Saint Lawrence concerns his final days. As a deacon in third century Rome, Lawrence was responsible for distributing alms to the poor. He was loved and respected by the people, and he was like a son to Pope Sixtus II. In 257, the Roman Emperor Valerian issued edicts forbidding the practice of Christianity. He later ordered that all bishops, priests, and deacons be killed. Pope Sixtus was put to death, and Lawrence was soon to follow.
But before his death, Lawrence was required to bring the riches of the Church to the Emperor. According to tradition, Lawrence asked for three days to make a full accounting. He proceeded to distribute all of the Church’s holdings to the poor, blind, and sick. He then gathered them into one place and presented them to the Emperor. “These are the treasures of the Church,” he said. Unimpressed, Valerian sentenced him to death on a gridiron on 10th August 258.
Lawrence’s martyrdom was his final act of love and the fruit of many daily deaths to sin and selfishness as he cared for the poor. Like Our Lord, Lawrence understood that no cost was too great, no suffering too dire, considering how much Our Lord had given him.
We may think, “I could never do what Saint Lawrence did.” Or we may want to do great things for God but not know how or where to begin. But Our Lord gives us a clue: “Whoever serves me must follow me” (John 12:26). Every meal Lawrence offered to the poor, every act of kindness to the sick, was another stride in the footsteps of his Master. As he served, Lawrence became more and more like Our Lord until he took on the final likeness: death in the service of God’s people.
Our daily acts of service in the community may feel monotonous or insignificant, but the Sisters with whom we share our lives each day are, for us, the treasures of the church. Like Saint Lawrence, our simple efforts to provide for them, to prepare meals for them, to care for them, all help us to become more like Our Lord in his life of sacrificial service. With every little death to selfishness, we too can bear much fruit for God.
Saint Lawrence, pray for us.