Happy St. Lawrence Day

This from an archivist friend in Washington, DC.:

The great St. Lawrence is the patron of archivists (and librarians). He was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. Another of the ways the deacon St. Lawrence served the Church was by maintaining and protecting its records, which is apparently one of the key reasons he was a target of the persecution. The Roman authorities would have liked to get hold of the records of the upstart religion that they were trying to eliminate.

Attached is a copy of a postcard showing a mosaic from the tomb of the emperor’s daughter, Gallia Placida, in Ravenna, Italy. There you see St. Lawrence and, behind him, a cabinet with its doors open. Inside are the records.

When the authorities approached Lawrence and told him to bring them the treasure of the Church, Lawrence said it would take a couple of days, but he would do it. He sent out word for the Christians of Rome, who were overwhelmingly poor people, to assemble two days later. Lawrence showed them to the Roman authorities and said, “Here is the treasure of the Church.”

This did not endear Lawrence to the authorities. Lawrence was grilled to death. He was joyful to the end, even telling his executioners “Turn me over, I’m done on that side!” For this comment, the Church has also designated St. Lawrence the patron of cooks! What a deal! He will intercede for us at home AND at work!

Here is an excerpt (caution: not for the faint of heart) about St. Lawrence from the book on the Vatican archives:

“It was during the persecutions that followed the Valerian edicts of 257 and 258 that the imperial guard appeared at the door of the archives to confiscate them in the name of the emperor. Old Pope Sixtus had already been arrested. The guards searched in vain for the administrative records, and for the gold and silver that should have been in the safe. All had disappeared. Lawrence had sent the Church’s documents, with their incriminating lists of names, into hiding, and had distributed the gold and silver in its treasury to the poor. The guards put him to the fire torture on a gridiron, a method commonly used in ancient times to discover the whereabouts of treasure. But the librarian died without talking. His charred body was claimed by the Christians, and his mummified skull is still in the care of the popes. At the Vatican on the tenth of August every year they expose in its golden reliquary the head of Saint Lawrence that still, in the distorted mouth, in the burned bone of the skull, shows the agony he suffered to defend the archives of the popes.”

— The Secret Archives of the Vatican, Maria Luisa Ambrosini with Mary Willis, p. 27


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