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When I went to high school, my first homeroom teacher was Sister Lawrence Joseph. I was used to the masculine names of religious Sisters; in those days most of the more prestigious saints were men. Sister Lawrence wasn’t the best math teacher I ever had but I always remembered that her feast day was August 10th – the feast on the liturgical calendar of Saint Lawrence, Martyr – because of the way legend says he lived and died.

Lawrence was a deacon in the Church at Rome during the third century, the time when Christians were still being persecuted for their faith. As such, he was in the inner circle of the Pope so that when the Pope was assassinated, he knew it was likely that he would be next. As deacon of the Roman church, Lawrence had the responsibility for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor. He had been giving all the money on hand to the poor and even selling sacred vessels of the altar to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he demanded that Lawrence bring all the treasure of the Church to him, “rendering to Caesar what was due.” Lawrence was given three days to assemble all the riches of the Church. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence had gathered all the poor, blind, lame maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed people and said to the prefect, “These are the treasure of the Church.”

The fury of the prefect was known by the cruelty of the kind of death Lawrence was to die and the heroism of the saint was sealed by his response. The prefect had a large gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it and Lawrence’s body placed on it. After he had suffered the pain for a long time, legend says, the saint made his famous cheerful remark, “It is well-done. Turn me over.” (http://www.franciscanmedia.com) Lawrence was said to be 33 years old at the time of his death.

In a moment of such violence in our own country and such courage seen in the lives of many young people speaking out and caring for their elders, St. Lawrence shines as an example of selflessness and ingenuity. Let our prayer today be for the end of senseless cruelty and a willingness to stand for those most in need of our courage and care.