It is the 10th of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
What happened OTD (10 August) in 2001 at Irvine Presbyterian Church was not significant in the broad history of the church but it was pretty dang significant for me.
Also, today is the Feast of St. Lawrence, perhaps the most venerated extra-Biblical saint in Rome. HIs example is supposedly the reason that “all of Rome” converted and became the center of the Western Catholic Church.
How many things are named after St. Lawrence?
Obvs the St. Lawrence River, dozens of cities, and smaller towns.
St. Larry is the patron saint of over 30 cities, thousands of chapels and of deacons, comedians, cooks, librarians, archivists, and the list goes on…
Who was he?
One of the 7 deacons of Rome in the mid 200s who was martyred under Valerian
By the mid 400s, St. Augustine was praising him as one of the most important figures in the early church but admitted that any real sources about him have been lost.
And so we are flying blind on historical sources but this never stopped us from spinning spectacular yarns. I’ve gone to the Golden Legend, sermons by Augustine and Pope Leo I, collections of St. Lives, etc…
He seems to have become a kind of wax nose that can be bent to one's purposes… but this is the most told and important story told about the saint
[The story is told as if the emperor was Decius, even early records question this as suggesting that it was under Valerius]
The Emperor required sacrifices for the common good of the Roman Empire
The Empire had begun confiscating the wealth and land of the growing Christian church. Thus, those in higher offices were targeted for persecution.
7 leaders, including Pope Sixtus II, were called on their refusal to sacrifice and sentenced to die.
Lawrence, the Deacon, was told that he could have 3 days to collect all the wealth of the church and two collect and turn over baptismal records to the Empire.
During those days it is said that he helped conceal the damning paperwork (thus, the patron saint of archivists) and then on the appointed day he returned to the Emperor with a collection of Rome’s sick, poor and blind.
Enraged, the Emperor demanded to know where the treasures of the church were and Laurence responded “these are the treasures of the church” (thus, the patron saint of the poor).
And then he was likely beheaded. Except for a possible transcription error.
Passus Est is translated as “he suffered”. This is the usual phrasing in the story of martyrs.
But it appears the P was lost and thus we read “assus est” which is translated as “he was roasted”. Thus the story became that the enraged Emperor hauled out hot coals and covered them with a gridiron (thus, he is the patron saint of chefs). The story goes on:
Apparently in an act of defiance St. Larry, once on the grill, shouted out “I’m done on this side, turn me over!” And thus became the patron saint of comedians.
Nevertheless, Lawrence of Rome was one of the most significant martyrs and his story- however, embellished- has become a model of fidelity, service to the poor, and faith in the face of adversity.
The last word for today comes from the Gospel according to St. Luke, the 14th chapter:
12 Then Jesus said to the person who had invited him, “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. 13 Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. 14 And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 10th of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christopher “assus est” Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Beth Anne’s husband of 20 years.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.