10 August 2011

10 August - Saint Lawrence of Rome

Weather: If on St. Lawrence's day the weather be fine, a fair autumn and good wine may be hoped for.  And it is shaping up to be a fine day today!  Warm, but fine.

Today is the feast of Saint Lawrence of Rome, deacon and martyr (died c. 258)

When last we saw Lawrence, on the 6th of August, he was following his patron, Pope Sixtus, as the latter was being led off to prison and execution under the edict of the emperor Valerian.  Sixtus told the young deacon that he would truly follow in three days, and consigned to him the treasures of the church.  At the mention of treasure, the ears of the neighboring soldiery perked up, and word was taken to the emperor that Lawrence had hidden a great store of gold and precious items.

Meanwhile, Lawrence did as he was bidden, and used the money to relieve the sufferings of the poor (something he was well versed at doing, as a deacon).  He was arrested and brought before the emperor, who demanded the treasure of him.  Lawrence asked for a little time to gather the treasure and bring to the palace, and was granted three days.  On the third day, there stood Lawrence with all the poor of Rome, proclaiming that these were the treasures of the church.

This did not sit well with the emperor, for whom precious gems did not come in the guise of the crippled and the blind, destitute widows and filthy beggars.  When he was convinced that Lawrence would not disgorge the wealth entrusted to him, nor apostatize, he had the deacon scourged and scorched with red-hot plates. Losing patience with the cocky young man, he condemned him to be roasted on a gridiron.

"And then said Decius: Bring hither a bed of iron, that Laurence contumax may lie thereon.  And the ministers despoiled him, and laid him stretched out upon a gridiron of iron, and laid burning coals under and held him with forks of iron.  Then said Laurence to Valerianus: Learn, thou cursed wretch, that thy coals give to me refreshing of coldness, and make ready to thee torment perdurable, and our Lord knoweth that I, being accused, have not forsaken him, and when I was demanded I confessed him Christ, and I being roasted give thankings unto God.  And after this he said with a glad cheer unto Decius: Thou cursed wretch, thou has roasted that one side, turn that other, and eat." The Golden Legend

Or in modern parlance: "Bite me."

And so saying, he thanked God, and died.

Medieval legend said that he was born in Aragon, a cousin of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, and that the two of them were ordained as deacons.  He has been called "the courteous Spaniard" because, it was related, when the bones of Saint Stephen were taken for burial to the sarcophagus of Saint Lawrence, the skeleton of the barbecued saint moved over to the left, giving the place of honor on the right to the stoned saint.

He is a patron of cooks (for obvious reasons) and the poor, and could easily be the patron of the snarky.  A barbecue in his honor would be appropriate, although in some countries, that would be considered in very poor taste and the feast is totally vegetarian.

However be it, in your feasting, remember the treasures of the church and give alms for their relief.

Grant to us, we beseech, O omnipotent God, to quench the flames of our vices, Thou who didst grant to blessed Lawrence Thy martyr the power to overcome the fires of his torments.  Through Christ our Lord, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, O God, world without end.

Artwork: "Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence" by Titian, c. 1548.  Church of the Jesuits, Venice.