St Lawrence was a deacon in Rome in the mid Third Century AD. On 6 August
258, he became the senior ranking Church official, following the execution
of Pope St Sixtus II. His tenure of this position did not last long, as
he was summoned for beheading on the 10th, and was commanded to bring
the riches of the church with him. Lawrence had already given away the
church's wealth, and arrived with a crowd of the poor, blind, sick and
crippled - which were the church's true riches.
St Lawrence was martyred on a griddle, and is reputed to have told his
murderers to turn him over, as he was" done on that side". It
is perhaps unsuprising that he is known as a patron saint of cooks and
The feast of his martyrdom falls at the time of the Perseid Meteor shower.
This spectacular astromonical phenomenon was known in past times as the
"burning tears of St Lawrence".
"With the robe of joyfulness, alleluya, Our Lord hath this day clothed
His soldier, Laurence.
May Thy faithfuls joyous assemblage clap their hands more cheerfully
than they have heretofore.
Today the noble martyr offered pleasing sacrifice to God, today he, being
grievously tested, endured unto the end the torment of his fire; and shrank
not from offering his limbs to punishments most grievous. Before the ruler
he is summoned, and settlement is made upon the Churchs hidden holdings.
But he by words enticing is unmoved, and is unshaken by the torments of
the rulers avarice. Valerian is laughed to scorn,
And the Levites liberal hand, when he is asked for payments, giveth
to the gathered poor. For he was their minister of charity, giving them
abundance from his means. Therefore the prefect is enraged,
And a glowing bed made ready. The torment-bearing instrument, the gridiron
of his suffering, roasteth his very viscera,
But he laugheth it to scorn. The martyr sweateth in his agony, in hopes
of crown and recompense which is allotted those with faith, who struggle
for the sake of Christ.
The court of heaven rejoiceth for his warfare-waging, for he hath prevailed
this day against the lackeys of wickedness. That we, then, may attain
the gift of life, by this our patron, be glad, O our choir, singing in
the church upon his feast-day a joyful alleluya. "
(from the Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion