Today, the Church commemorates Lawrence, a deacon and martyr. Our devotion comes from Celebrating the Saints.
The apostles established the office of deacon. Deacons helped their bishops and presbyters (pastors) by tending to the collection, management, and distribution of alms (gifts for the poor, those in crisis, and for the clergy). Since the bread and wine that were used in the Eucharist were gifts of the people, the deacons also had the responsibility to prepare them, set the table, and even help distribute them. Many large congregations copied the example of the apostles in Acts 6 and appointed seven deacons, the head of which organized their work and connected them to the bishop.
Lawrence was such a deacon. Most likely born in Spain toward the early part of the third century, he met and became fast friends with the man who would end up being Pope Sixtus II, bishop of Rome. Together they journeyed to Rome. When Sixtus was elected the bishop of the city, he appointed his friend Lawrence to be his chief deacon.
In those days, the Roman Emperor Valerian made it policy that whoever was denounced as a Christian was to be summarily executed. All his possessions would be given over to the empire’s treasury. It was further ordered that all the Christian clergy should be killed. Sixtus had not been bishop even for a whole year. He and many of his clergy with him were denounced and taken custody while celebrating a liturgy in a cemetery. It was August 6, 256.
After the death of his friend and spiritual father, Lawrence was brought before the prefect of Rome. He was ordered to turn over to the Roman treasury all the treasures of the church. The prefect understood that deacons handled the church’s wealth. Lawrence asked for three days to assemble the treasure. He spent those days giving away to the poor as much of the church’s material wealth as he could. On the third day, he appeared before the prefect, who again demanded the church’s treasure. The gutsy deacon then called forth an assembly of the poor folk whose lives the church’s charity had touched. He brought in the disabled and the sick. He said to the prefect, “These are the treasures of the Church.”
The enraged prefect ordered a gridiron prepared and well heated. Lawrence was placed over the fire. After he had endured the agony a time, he quite cheerfully called out, “You can turn me over; I’m done on this side.”
Devotion is from Celebrating the Saints by William Weedon, pages 138–39, © 2016 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Almighty God, You called Lawrence to be a deacon in Your Church to serve Your saints with deeds of love, and You gave him the crown of martyrdom. Give us the same charity of heart that we may fulfill Your love by defending and supporting the poor, that by loving them we may love You with all our hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Prayer is from Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 610, © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.