St. Lawrence (also called St. Lawrence of Rome, St. Laurence, Saint Larry, San Lorenzo) was a third-century martyr, a Deacon of Ancient Rome, a caretaker of the poor, and a reputed wise-cracker.
In the first few centuries of the church, it was pretty dangerous to be a Christian. The Romans had a habit of persecuting, torturing and killing any person who admitted or was accused of being a Christian; even meeting with other Christians was strictly prohibited by Roman law. The Church rapidly expanded despite this, and some of the most vigorous champions of the Church come from this era.
Lawrence was one of the people in charge of administering the church budget, and was chiefly in charge of ministering to the care of the poor. Roman emperor Valerian demanded that all the assets of the Church be turned over to the Roman prefect and that Lawrence must surrender the wealth of the church. Lawrence agreed, but said he’d need a few days to gather the money together—in the meantime, he gave all the Church’s money to the poor and hid the Church’s documents with other trustworthy Christians. Then he called together all the sick, aged, widowed, orphaned and poor Christians he could find, bringing them to the Roman prefect declaring “These are the treasures of the Church!”
Predictably, the Romans were pretty mad about this stunt. He was tortured for information and then promptly executed.
St. Lawrence was martyred by being burned alive on a gridiron. According to legend, St. Lawrence defiantly refused to surrender to the Romans, and just before he succumbed to death he shouted to his torturers “Turn me over! I am done on this side!”
It’s wise to note that the stories of the Church from this era are often unreliable (from a history point of view), and some of the accounts are closer to legend than journalism. In fairness, St. Lawrence’s life and death was one of the most attested stories of the early church—though a historian would be smart to accept some stories with a fair amount of skepticism. But nonetheless, if it wasn’t for these traditions, all the stories would have been lost; here, I will not parse fact from fable.
St. Lawrence is considered one of the great saints of Rome, his feast day is August 10. He is the patron of brewers, comedians, and barbeque and generally my kind of guy. Saint Lawrence, pray for us!