An Italian cardinal praised 3rd century martyr St. Lawrence for witnessing to Christ and defending the Church, in a decision that ultimately cost him his life.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa of head of the Italian bishops' conference, recalled the life of the saint during a feast day Mass at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence in Rome on Aug. 10.
St. Lawrence, who oversaw the treasures of the Church of Rome, made a surprising and highly symbolic move once learning of the Emperor Valerian's intent to seize them: he gave them to the poor and then presented the poor to the emperor as the Church’s true treasure.
This one gesture, Cardinal Bagnasco said, meant two things. “That in the Church all treasures are meant for the poor, and that the poor are the real treasure of the Church.”
He then reflected that the actions of Lawrence, which led him to be burned at the stake, “caused much discussion in the pagan world.”
“Would it have not been more logical to save his life and obtain honors by giving in to the powerful? Why help the miserable and die in such a cruel fashion?” the cardinal asked.
Following the example of St. Lawrence, he said, “Christians, in keeping with their duty, have been and will continue to be leaven in society, with confidence and a spirit of service, conscious that they have received an inexhaustible deposit of religious, human and cultural values.”