Martyrdom of St. Lawrence
Laurentius, usually called St. Laurence, was archdeacon under Sextus, and when that bishop was led out to execution, Laurence accompanied and comforted him. As they parted from each other for the last time, Sextus warned his faithful follower that his martyrdom would come soon after his own: that this prophecy was true is indicated by the tradition that has been handed down to us telling of his subsequent seizure and cruel death.
The Christian church of Rome, even at this early period, had in its treasury considerable riches--both in money, and in gold and silver vessels used at the services of the church. All these treasures were under the watchful eye of Laurence, the archdeacon. Besides maintaining its clergy, the church supported many poor widows and orphans; nearly fifteen hundred of these poor people, whose names Laurence kept upon his list, lived upon the charity of the church. Sums of money were also constantly needed to help struggling churches which had been newly established in distant parts of the world.
Macrianus, governor of Rome under the emperor Valerian, had heard of these riches, and longed to seize them; he therefore sent soldiers to arrest Laurence who was soon taken and dragged before the governor. As soon as Macrianus' pitiless eyes rested upon the prisoner, he said harshly:
I hear that you who call yourselves Christians possess treasures of gold and silver, and that your priests use golden vessels at your services.. It this true?
Laurence answered: The church, indeed, has great treasures.
Then bring those treasures forth, said Macrianus. Do not your sacred books tell you to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's? The emperor had need of those riches for the defense of the empire; therefore you must render them up.
After reflecting deeply for a few moments, Laurence replied: In three days I will bring before you the greatest treasures of the church.
This answer satisfied the governor; so Laurence was set free, and Macrianus impatiently awaited the time when the expected stores of gold and silver should be placed before him.
On the appointed day Macrianus, attended by his officers, came to the place where the Christians usually assembled. They were calmly received by Laurence at the entrance, and invited to pass into an inner room.
Are the treasures collected? was the first question of Macrianus.
They are, my lord, replied Lurence; will you enter an view them?
With these words he opened a door and displayed to the astounded gaze of the governor, the poor pensioners of the church, a chosen number--a row of the lame, a row of the blond, orphans and widows, the helpless and the weak. Astonished by the sight, the governor turned fiercely upon Laurence, saying: "What mean you by this mockery? Where are the treasures of gold and silver you promised to deliver up?"
These that you see before you, replied the undaunted Laurence, are the true treasures of the church. In the widows and orphans you behold her gold and her silver, her pearls and precious stones. these are her real riches. Make use of them by asking for their prayers; they will prove your best weapons against your foes.
Enraged and disappointed at not securing the hoped-for gold (which had been carried to a place of safety during the three days that had elapsed), the governor furiously commanded his guards to seize Laurence and take him to a dungeon. There, terrible to relate, a great fire was built upon the stone floor, and a huge gridiron placed upon it; then the martyr was stripped of his clothing and thrown upon this fiery bed, to slowly perish in the scorching heat.
The cruel tyrant gazed down upon this dreadful sight to gratify his hatred and revenge; but the martyr had strength and spirit to triumph over him even to the last. Not a murmur escaped him, but with his dying breath he prayed for the Christian church at Rome, and for the conversion of the entire empire to God; and so, lifting up his eyes to heaven, he gave up the ghost.
A Roman soldier, named Romanus, who looked on at the sufferings of St. Laurence, was so much affected by the martyr's courage and faith that he became a convert to Christianity. As soon as this was known the soldier was severely scourged, and afterward beheaded.
This page and its design are copyright
© 2002 by Kevin W. Michael.
All rights reserved.