Monday, August 10, 2015

San Lorenzo

It is amazing how throughout history, bad people tend to project their vice onto others, and of the vice s most often projected, greed regularly appears.  If we look at the persecution of the Jews, how often are they depicted as rich and greedy by their persecutors who are themselves greedy for money and power.  So it was in the time of St. Lawrence.

Lawrence grew up in what would later be the Kingdom of Aragon in Spain. In Zaragoza he met a Greek who would later become Pope Sixtus II. It was Pope Sixtus who ordained him one of the 7 deacons of Rome, which is why Lawrence is often portrayed wearing a dalmatic, the vestment of a deacon.

During the reign of Valerian, 257, the emperor was engaged in a war with the Persians.  The emperor decreed that Christians should sacrifice to the pagan Gods, or their titles, land, and goods would be confiscated- transparent excuse for him to steal their money. The following year he ordered that Church leaders be executed. Pope Sixtus was killed immediately and and St. Lawrence was ordered to hand over "the treasures of the Church." From their beginning (see Acts 6) deacons were entrusted with the money because they were entrusted with caring for the poor.  St. Lawrence distributed what the Church had to the poor and then as ordered appeared before the emperor surrounded by the poor who him proclaimed to be "the true treasures of the Church." He was executed immediately, burned to death, which is why is is portrayed holding  a gridiron, and is the patron saint of cooks.

While the persecution is not so overt today, there still exists those who are anti-Christian, and specifically anti-Catholic.  Those who talk as if Catholics aren't Christians. And yes, I still run into those who believe the Catholic Church controls vast amounts of money. With some regularity I still hear, "The Pope owns every Catholic Church in the world" and of course with that they believe the Pope controls all the money of every Catholic parish in the world.

Most Dioceses and their parishes have debt rather than wealth and the Church is largest in those parts of the world that are the poorest. You may point to beautiful churches in a city like Rome, churches that were built centuries ago by wealthy families, but the vast majority of Catholic churches around the world are simple structures for simple parishes, trying to live out the call of the gospel.

In the parish where I now reside, St. Paul's in Richmond, it is not unusual to see the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill wander in off the street. Truth be told they make some people very nervous. Today on the Feast of St. Lawrence when we see the poor, let us hear the words of St. Lawrence, "Here are the treasures of the Church" and treat them accordingly.