Let’s do a quick biography of a man who is possibly one of my favorite martyrs. Saint Lawrence of Rome was a deacon under Pope Sixtus II in a time of widespread persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor, Valerian. In an attempt to discourage lay people and to put an end to the Church, Valerian issued an edict stating that all Christian clergy be put to death. The Romans arrested and killed the Pope and demanded that the riches of the Church be given to the Empire.
This command was issued by the Roman prefect to Deacon Lawrence who had three days to deliver the treasure, but he used the time to distribute the alms to the poor and to give away anything of great value so that the prefect would not be able to seize it. Lawrence then returned to the prefect on the third day and obliged him by presenting him with what the deacon believed to be the “riches of the church”. He brought with him a group of people who were indigent, crippled, blind, suffering, and sick, and declared that these people were the treasures of the church. This quickly earned him a sentence to death and on August 10th, 258 A.D., he was martyred for his Christian faith and for his devotion to the poor.
The Roman prefect was greatly angered by Lawrence’s defiance and to ensure that he suffered, it was ordered that he be executed by fire over a gridiron – to be grilled to death. Now here’s the reason that he is one of my favorite saints: he embraced his martyrdom so lovingly, that he was able to joke about it with the executioners. It is reported that after being laid on the gridiron for a time, he said, “Turn me over; I’m done on this side.” After he was turned over, he died and received his reward for keeping his faith and the love of God until the end.