Context: Early Church during Reign of Emperor Valerian (253-260)
The Roman crackdown on Christians reached a new low during the reign of Emperor Valerian. Through a series of acts, Christians were told:
- They had no right to worship, either in public buildings, private homes or underground hideouts (like the catacombs).
- Their leaders (bishops, priests, deacons) were exiled.
- Church leaders would face immediate execution.
- All wealth owned by the Church was to be confiscated.
- Any Christians in the imperial family would be chained and made slaves.
Valerian sought a “final solution” on eliminating the Christian faith for the Roman Empire. His “purification” efforts hit every social class. But, as we know, the blood of the martyrs only fertilized the faith and expanded the Church.
St Lawrence: Fact and Legend
St. Lawrence was a deacon of the Church in Rome, who was in charge of overseeing finances and supporting the poor. Legend has it that when the Emperor demanded he turn over the wealth of the Church to the empire, Lawrence took three days to orchestrate a critical witness, which he told the Emperor he needed to cover his inventory. He gathered the poor, orphans and crippled of the city, and brought them before the Emperor, announcing: “These are the treasures of the Church.”
St. Lawrence met a martyr’s death on August 10, 358, four days after Pope Saint Sixtus II was murdered in Rome. Countless martyrs joined them.
May we remember what St. Lawrence taught us about the “treasures of the Church,” and may we embolden our Christian witness through his inspiration and intercession.
St. Lawrence, pray for us!