A Reflection for the Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
Find today’s readings here.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life. (Jn 12:25)
This excerpt from the Gospel of John offers a perfect opportunity to reflect on the life of St. Lawrence, a second-century martyr whose feast day we celebrate today.
As the account of his life is usually told, Lawrence served as a deacon of the church in Rome during the third century. Pope Sixtus II placed him in charge of charitable giving in the archdiocese, making him responsible for ministering to those most in need. Lawrence did his job diligently, often sacrificing and selling possessions of the church in order to support and uplift the poor. Despite his commitment to service, he was prosecuted by a Roman leader, Emperor Valerian, who harbored a hatred for the church and was convinced that religious people were hoarding fortunes.
In 258 A.D., Valerian ordered the execution of all church leaders, including Lawrence. In exchange for his life, Valerian told Lawrence he could turn over the church’s wealth to the Roman leader. Lawrence agreed—then sold the rest of his material possessions and gathered the poor, bringing them forward instead of valuable objects. “These people are the church’s treasure,” he said. He was subsequently killed, a fate he supposedly met peacefully.
When worldly concerns begin to consume us, St. Lawrence can serve as an aspirational model for how to put others (and therefore God) before ourselves.
St. Lawrence embodies the individual who “hates their life in this world” because they are unwaveringly confident in the promise of eternity. He was able to direct all his actions on Earth towards the glory of God, no matter the consequences. Such steadfast faith in the face of fear and persecution is inspirational, but also a bit intimidating when we reflect on how to replicate his sacrifice in our own lives.
This summer, my time as an intern for America has allowed me to produce work centered around both my personal faith and our Jesuit mission. As I return to the stressors and distractions of student life, I know that my attention towards my relationship with God will often be challenged. When I compare myself to someone like St. Lawrence, my susceptibility to the distractions of everyday life can sometimes feel like a failure to live as today’s Gospel instructs.
In this coming transition back to school, I want to focus on the opportunities I have to prioritize my faith, not on the moments I have failed to do so. When worldly concerns—grades, work, social drama and material desires—begin to consume us, St. Lawrence can serve as an aspirational model for how to put others (and therefore God) before ourselves.