Lawrence was one of seven deacons who were captured with Pope Sixtus II on August 6, 258. The governor postponed his execution because he knew that Lawrence was in charge of distributing alms to the poor. He demanded that the Church’s riches be handed over. Lawrence responded: “The Church is indeed rich. The emperor does not have any treasure that compares. I will show you a valuable part, but allow me a little time to get everything in order and to make an inventory.” The governor happily agreed and gave him three days to gather the Church’s treasures. On August 10 Lawrence presented to him the Church of Rome’s riches—the blind, the lame, lepers, orphans, widows, and all the poor for whom he was responsible. The governor was furious, but Lawrence responded: “Why are you displeased? These are the treasures of the Church.” As a result the governor ordered that Lawrence be killed not with a swift beheading but by being roasted alive on a gridiron. God strengthened Lawrence to endure this torture and tradition has it that at one point he joked to the executioner: “Let my body be turned. This side is broiled enough!” May St. Lawrence pray with us today for Pope Benedict’s intentions: for World Youth Day and for the Christians of the Western World. Our reflection is from a homily that Pope Benedict gave in the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls on the occasion of the 1,750th anniversary of his martyrdom.
History confirms to us how glorious is the name of this Saint, by whose sepulcher we have gathered. His concern for the poor, the generous service that he rendered to the Church of Rome in the context of assistance and charity, his fidelity to the Pope which he took to the point of desiring to follow him in the supreme trial of martyrdom and the heroic witness of pouring out his blood, which he suffered only a few days later, are facts well known to all. St Leo the Great, in a beautiful homily, thus comments on the atrocious martyrdom of this "illustrious hero": "The flames of could not overcome Christ's love and the fire that burned outside was less keen than that which blazed within". And he adds: "The Lord desired to spread abroad his glory throughout the world, so that from the East to the West the dazzling brightness of his deacon's light does shine, and Rome is become as famous through Lawrence as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen".