St. Lawrence was a third-century deacon and martyr in the Church of Rome. Nothing is known of his early life; as a young man, his honesty and faith prompted Pope St. Sixtus II to place him in charge of distributing Church funds to the poor.
During the persecution ordered by the Emperor Valerian in the year 257, Pope Sixtus and several other Christians were arrested and put to death. [The feast of St. Sixtus and his companions is celebrated on August 7.]
Knowing that he himself would soon suffer the same fate, Lawrence gathered together all the Church’s money and gave it away to the poor; he even sold the sacred liturgical vessels to increase the sum. Hearing of this, the prefect (a public official, equivalent to a mayor) of Rome imagined the Christians possessed a vast treasure, and he demanded Lawrence turn it over to him. The deacon agreed, asking only for three days to gather it together; he then assembled a large number of the poor, the sick, and widows and orphans. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence stated, “Here is the Church’s treasure.” The angry official then ordered Lawrence’s immediate execution.