Saint Lawrence

St. Lawrence (225-258), born in Huesca, Spain, was, according to tradition (established by St. Augustine (354-430), St. Ambrose (c340-397) and the poet Prudentius (348-c413) one of the seven Deacons of Pope ST. Sixtus II (Elected 257). He is said to have been put in charge of the poor (which may explain why he is the Patron Saint of tanners and cooks) and of the archives (which accounts for his Patronage of librarians).

In 258 the Emperor Valerian (cc200-260 r253-60) inaugurated a persecution of Christians, confiscating the goods of and/or exiling Senators and other nobles and executing clergy. On 6th August Lawrence met Sixtus on the way to his crucifixion and is supposed to have asked why the Pope was going on a journey without being accompanied by his Deacon to which the Sixtus replied that Lawrence would follow within three days.

During the ensuing three days Lawrence did his best to disperse the church's wealth so that it could not be seized by the Prefect who turned up on August 10th to be told by Lawrence that the "Church's jewels", which stood before him were the poor, the blind and the lame. He was martyred for his troubles although the  traditional account of his being roasted on a grid-iron (and cheerfully asking to be turned over as he was done on one side) is highly unlikely; he is much more likely to have been decapitated. During the dispersal of goods he is supposed to have dispatched the chalice which Jesus used at the Last Supper (the Holy Grail) to Spain where it is still venerated in Valencia Cathedral but this is likely to be a corrupted understanding of Augustine's sermon on Lawrence which includes reference to the Deacon administering the chalice.

In spite of the doubts over details, there is little doubt that there was a Roman Deacon called Lawrence martyred on 10th August 258 but it is not clear why he was venerated more than Deacons Felicissimus or Agapitus who were executed with Sixtus or the other four whose names have not survived. Some of the questions we might ask ourselves are:


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