On this date (August 10), 1,764 years ago, St. Lawrence, the Archdeacon of Rome, was executed for trolling the IRS of his day.
Emperor Valerian launched a persecution against Christians in early August of 258, ordering that all Christian clergy be executed. On August 6, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus II, was captured in a cemetery while saying Mass. He was sentenced to death. Per imperial order, according to the forfeiture law, all of the church’s money was also to be confiscated. Lawrence was the treasurer in charge of the cathedral’s goods to be distributed to the poor.
Lawrence asked for three days to comply with the “audit.” He used that time to feverishly distribute the treasury of the cathedral to the poor. When he was summoned to the prefect’s office to turn over the church’s riches, instead of money, he presented a delegation of the poor and crippled as the “treasures of the church.” He is said to have remarked that “The church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This calls to mind St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (4:8) in which the apostle tells the Christians in that city that in Christ, “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!”
The government was not amused by St. Lawrence’s “compliance.” He was himself executed on August 10, 258 – and ever since that day, the church has honored him, who in the words of St. Ambrose of Milan, “preferred to spend the gold of the church on the poor, rather than to keep it in hand for the persecutor.”
Fast forward to August of our own year, 2022 AD, where our own imperial government, also filled with a lust for domination and hatred against Christians, eager to get its murderous and rapacious fingers on the “treasures” of the people, has announced a plan to hire an army of more than 87,000 new IRS agents and ramp up audits against ordinary citizens. These agents of the government are, by the way, armed with lethal force.
So let us continue to honor St. Lawrence and follow his example to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Apostles, prophets, Martyrs,
And all the noble throng
Who wear the spotless raiment
And raise the ceaseless song –
For these, passed on before us,
We offer praises due
And, walking in their footsteps,
Would live our lives for You.
~ Horatio Bolton Nelson
11:44 am on August 10, 2022