"With the robe of joyfulness, alleluya,
Our Lord hath this day clothed His soldier, Laurence.
May Thy faithful's joyous assemblage clap their hands
More cheerfully than they have heretofore."
(from the Mass of Saint Laurence, Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion Press)
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Lawrence. He was archdeacon of the church of Rome in the third century. When the Emperor Valerian had Pope Sixtus II and six other deacons executed in 258 AD, Lawrence was left in charge.
Now, back then, for a deacon to be left in charge, this actually meant something, inasmuch as deacons were charged with the temporal goods and charitable works of the local church. On August 6, Lawrence met with Sixtus in the latter's prison cell. The boss laid out the plan; no, we're not leaving forever, you're joining us in four days.
Lawrence saw this as a good time to come up with a plan of his own.
Lawrence distributed the funds of the local church among the crippled, blind, sick, and indigent of the city. When arrested by the Emperor, Lawrence was commanded to produce the wealth of the church. Lawrence produced what he called the "true treasure of the Church" -- you guessed it; the crippled, blind, sick, and indigent of the city.
The emperor was not amused.
Legend has it that Lawrence was martyred by being roasted on a gridiron. It is also said that, at one point, Lawrence told them when he was done on one side, and could be turned over. Modern scholars have suggested that the determination of this method of torture is probably a misreading of the original accounts.
Anything to take the fun outa this, huh, guys?
And so, Lawrence is pictured holding a book of records, a money purse, and/or a gridiron. His image is generally found on one of the "deacon's doors" with the iconostasis of any Eastern church.
Lawrence is also the patron saint of cooks. Not to mention librarians, libraries, lumbago, paupers, poor people, restauranteurs, Rome, schoolchildren, seminarians, Sri Lanka, stained glass workers, students, tanners, vine growers, vineyard owners, wine makers (whew!), and... me!
That's because I was named for my uncle Lawrence Rosselot (pronounced "ROSS-uh-low," from the province of Alsace in France, so the "T" at the end is silent), my mom's brother who died before I was born. It was either a farming accident or complications of influenza; to this day I get two versions of the story.
Finally, on the eve of his feast, one may look up into the night sky (at least in the northern hemisphere) and witness the "burning tears of Saint Lawrence." This is the meteor shower that follows the pasage of the Swift-Tuttle Comet, and precedes the one near The Perseides.
Sure, you missed the one last night. But you've got the coming week to check it out. The best time will be late Friday night and early Saturday morning. They had a party for the occasion two years ago, at Point Lookout State Park in southern Maryland. Maybe it's still on.
Even if it isn't, all the stars will be there.