ST. LAWRENCE OF ROME
The history of Saint LAWRENCE takes us back to the 3rd century A. D. to the city of Rome. During the reign of Emperors Decius, Gallius and Valerian (251 - 260 A.D.) there was fierce persecution of the Christians. In these persecutions, Popes Stephen and Sixtus II, Deacon Lawrence and two young men, Pancratius and Tarcius, died as martyrs.
Lawrence was a deacon, an Assistant Priest, to Pope Sixtus II. His duties were to assist the Pope in spiritual and pastoral activities and to come to the succour of the less fortunate people. He was also the administrator of the Church treasury and responsible for the Church’s revenues.
In the year 257 Pope Sixtus II was condemned to death by the Prefect of Rome. When he was being led to the place of execution Lawrence ran up to the Pope and said, ‘‘Father, why are you going alone to the place of execution without taking me?” In reply the Pope said, “My son, I am old and feeble. With one single stroke of the sword, my life on earth will be brought to an end. But you are still young and strong. A more severe death penalty and its glory are awaiting you. After three days you will meet me in heaven.’’
After the beheading of Pope Sixtus II, Lawrence was summoned by the Prefect of Rome who knew about Lawrence’s responsibility over the Church’s treasury. The Prefect ordered Lawrence to hand over the Church’s revenues to him. Lawrence said, ‘‘I assure you that I will show you a very valuable part of the Church’s riches. I only request you to give me three days to make an inventory and to collect all the revenues.’’
Lawrence went all over Rome searching in every hutment for the poor and the needy, the sick and the infirm. He gathered about one thousand of such people who were supported by the Church and distributed among them all the valuables of the Church. Three days later he led them in
procession to the Prefect of Rome and told him, ‘‘Here are the true riches and the glory of the Church.’’
On seeing that he was outdone, the Prefect ordered Lawrence to be put to death. ‘‘Tie this disobedient fellow on the grid-iron and kindle a fire underneath so that the wretched may be roasted alive in fire and meet his death. Let him realize that the Prefect of Rome is not an object of ridicule and mockery,’’ he said.
The command of the Prefect was carried out carefully. Lawrence was stripped. His body was stretched out and bound with chains on an iron grid over a slow fire. Lawrence accepted this inhuman torment with great fortitude. His flesh broiled little by little. He prayed for his country and for his torturers and died. It was 10th of August of the year 258 A.D.