By Dc. Tom Cuskey
The year was 258, and the Church of Rome was led by Pope Sixtus II. The pontiff had a team of seven deacons — not unlike the calling of seven men as the first deacons in the Acts of the Apostles. Like their predecessors, these men were in charge of tending to the poor and needy, a charism that is foundational in the role of the deacon to this day. One among them was Lawrence.
A group of anti-Christian troublemakers assaulted the Pope and led him away for beheading, followed by a weeping Lawrence. The Pope comforted Lawrence, assuring him that he, too, would be going home to the Lord in just three days, on Aug. 10 which now marks the Feast of St. Lawrence.
Deacons in the Diocese of Syracuse gathered this week to honor the great St. Lawrence and his feast with prayer and a barbecue cookout. The significant part of the celebration actually is the barbecue. Read on.
Filled with joy that he would be going home to God, Lawrence distributed the riches he was entrusted with to the poor of Rome. The prefect of Rome believed the Church had vast riches, so he summoned Lawrence and demanded that he bring the treasures to him. And in three days, Lawrence returned with all of the poor and sick people of the streets that he could gather, presenting them to the greedy official. When asked where the treasure was, Lawrence responded, “These people are the Church’s treasure.”
The prefect was not amused, and he ordered Lawrence to be put to death, slowly and painfully, for disobeying him. He was roasted on a rack over open flames, much like animal flesh would be prepared for consumption. Blessed by God with the strength to withstand the horrible pain, Lawrence famously called out to his executioners with a smile, saying “Turn me over.” In his dying moments, he prayed that the people of Rome would be converted to believers in Christ. His prayers were obviously answered.
So, deacons today honor his memory with a barbecue. It’s no wonder: Lawrence is, among other titles, the patron saint of comedians. Amen!