“You can flip me over now; I’m done on this side.” Tradition tells us that these were the last words of St. Lawrence, a deacon of the early Roman Church, as he was martyred by a particularly brutal method: the gridiron. St. Lawrence was essentially roasted alive over open flames. In his last few moments, he remained bold. A few days before his martyrdom, after his Bishop, St. Sixtus, was martyred by order of the Emperor Valerian, St. Lawrence–being a deacon in charge of the church’s treasury–was ordered to hand over all the riches of the Roman Church. After giving away as much as he possibly could to the poor, he appeared before the court and presented the poor of the city, whom the Church had served. He is recorded to have said “These are the treasures of the Church.”
Soon after his martyrdom, the Church began remembering St. Lawrence on August 10th, the day of his death. Today, as we remember his life, we thank God for his example of bold faith, even in the face of torture and death. We remember how he lived our Lord’s words from St. Mark’s Gospel: “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” And we remember that, indeed, our neighbors in need are truly the treasures of the Church, whom our Lord has called us to serve without counting the cost. And we above all remember his ministry of pointing to Jesus Christ as the true and living God, who saved St. Lawrence through baptism and led him into eternal life.
A reading for St. Lawrence’s Day, from the Common of Martyrs in the Lutheran Book of Worship:
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” – St. Mark 8:34-38 (English Standard Version)
A prayer for St. Lawrence’s Day:
“Gracious Lord, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives for the message of your love. Inspire us with the memory of those martyrs for the Gospel, like your servant Saint Lawrence, whose faithfulness led them in the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”