St. Lawrence was a deacon who was martyred in Rome in the year 258.
There are two stories about him, which if they are not pure legend, may
indicate something about the sort of person he was.
In the year 258, the Prefect of Rome, a civil official, ordered
Lawrence to hand over the church’s valuables. Lawrence gathered the
poor and the sick and presented them to the Prefect saying, “Here is
the church’s treasure.” Immediately he was put to death by being
roasted on a gridiron.
In the second story, after Lawrence had been put on the grid for some
time with the fire burning below it, he remarked to the executioner,
“Turn me over, please, this side is sufficiently done.”
It may be Lawrence’s reputation for humor that prompted the Church’s
choice for the first reading in today’s liturgy. Paul was urging his
Gentile Christians to donate money to a fund, which would be sent to
the church in Jerusalem. The Christians there needed help, famine was
ravaging the area. Paul urges the Gentiles Christians to give
generously and with joy in their hearts, for as he puts it, “God loves
a cheerful giver.”
If our two stories are more than myth or legend, Lawrence seems without
a doubt to have served the poor and the sick of Rome, the Church’s
treasure, cheerfully, and cheerfully to have given his life for Christ.