Remember the story of Pope Sixtus II from August 7? Lawrence was one of his deacons. (You can read about the establishment of the order of deacons in Acts 6:1-6. The word “deacon” means “servant.”)
By the time Lawrence died at the hands of Emperor Valerian’s soldiers, he was the last deacon left alive in Rome. Two stories are told of his final days.
He presented these people to the emperor and said, “Here is our wealth. Here is our treasure.”
The first story holds that he was summoned to come before the emperor, who believed the Christians were hiding jewels and gold. Valerian demanded that Lawrence produce the hidden wealth. Lawrence asked permission to go and retrieve the church’s treasure. It was given. Lawrence went out, so the story goes, and returned to the palace with a throng of the city’s poor and homeless, sick and abandoned with him. He presented these people to the emperor and said, “Here is our wealth. Here is our treasure.”
The second story is about Lawrence’s death. Tradition has it that he was burned alive, lashed to a grill placed over a fire. In order to give strength and courage to those Christians watching their leader and servant die, Lawrence is said to have told his tormentors, “You can turn me over now; I’m done on this side.”
Lawrence is one of the patron saints of Rome, and, perhaps because his feast day falls in the northern hemisphere summer, many keep his day with a barbecue. Don’t worry about seeming disrespectful; Lawrence himself kept a light heart and a ready wit, even as he kept his faith, right to the end.