Monday, August 09, 2004

All the Church's wealth

Some of the stories of the Faith are too good not to tell over and over again. This is one of them.

In the olden days of the Church, deacons had charge of the business aspects of the local churches, seven deacons for each bishop. The bishop taught and ruled, the presbyters helped the bishop to pastor outlying areas where the faithful couldn't travel regularly to assist at the bishop's Eucharist, and the deacons were responsible for all the other stuff: keeping the holy things safe, paying the bills, managing the money, relieving the poor in their necessities, and so on.

Lawrence was the last surviving deacon of the Church in Rome --- the bishop, Sixtus, all the other deacons, and the vast majority of the presbyters had been executed a few days before. Yet the powers-that-were knew where Lawrence was and who he was, that he was responsible for all the material goods of the Church, and he was ordered to appear before the rulers at a assigned time and place, bearing all the wealth of the Church.

So he gathered all the Church's wealth and brought it to the appointed place.

He gathered together every widow, every orphan, every beggar and street kid, all the blind and deaf and lame and lunatic --- all the riches of Christ's Church --- and presented the wealth to the emperor's representative, as he had been commanded.

But the wealth of the Church was not the wealth that the rulers were seeking; they were seeking jewels and vessels of precious metals and manuscripts of forbidden writings. So Lawrence was condemned to death --- death by torture, by being cooked on a grill. According to the tradition, Lawrence kept his good humor even in dying. After some time, he informed his executioners that it was time to turn him over, since he was done on that side!

Holy St. Lawrence, help us to remember what and where the Church's riches really are, and pray for us that we may truly cherish them and never ever lose heart.

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