ST LAWRENCE, DEACON AND MARTYR FEAST DAY AUGUST 10 – submitted by Deacon Jerry Brennan
As Lake Ontario empties into a river near the 1000 Island region that separates Ontario from upstate New York there are many interesting boundary issues. Every island is either in Canada or the United States. Every rock is legally designated as an island if there is at least one bush or tree on a rock that is normally above the level of the river. Otherwise it is just a rock. The result of the spidery way boundaries between Canada and the U.S. are drawn, some homes, or cottages, take up almost an entire island and have a foot bridge that goes to their “front lawn” on a smaller island in the other country.
In some ways the complex boundary lines in the 1000 Islands region are symbolic of the issues we create in our own hearts when we try to pigeon hole what we give God and what we keep for ourselves. On August 10, this Saturday, we celebrate the Feast of St. Lawrence, Dea-con and Martyr (sometimes Laurence). Lawrence was one of the seven dea-cons of the city of Rome who reported directly to Pope Sixtus II. Emperor Valerian believed the Church had great wealth. He took Pope Sixtus II pris-oner along with all seven of his deacons in 258 A.D. Sixtus and the other six deacons were martyred on August 7. Lawrence was upset that he was not killed with his pope. Lawrence was given three days to gather the Church’s riches to the state.
Lawrence took the three days to distribute as much of the Church’s wealth as he could gather to the poor, the handicapped and the indigent. Lawrence did not attempt to flee and at the end of the three days he showed up to the procurator with no money or other material riches. When questioned he pointed to the indigents in his group and said these are the riches of the Church. The poor are the Church’s riches.
Lawrence did not draw spidery boundary lines to try to separate what he was giving to God and what he was keeping for himself. Instead he gave everything to God.
Lawrence died on August 10 because he put love of God ahead of his own life. He put his witness of Christ and the needs of the poor above his own life. Lawrence could have tried to run away. He did not. In life and death Lawrence gave his all to Christ and his Church. As a result of his faith, love for the poor, joy and the way he died, Lawrence is the patron of both cooks and comedians.
A popular cult grew up around Lawrence because his life was a worthy witness to a good Christian life and joyful living and an example for each of us.
John Cabot discovered the gulf of the river on the Feast of St. Lawrence in 1535 and named the gulf and the river after St. Lawrence. Today a large statute stands on the northern bank of the St. Lawrence where Lake Ontario flows into the St. Lawrence River. The statue shows St. Lawrence leaning on a griddle, a reminder that we can joyfully give all to God or we can follow the flow of the river and see how we can divide our lives into little spidery boundaries into what we give to God and what we keep for ourselves.