the Deacon, continued
Reacting to the church's new power and coveting its growing resources to fuel its wars, the government began a persecution. An edict in 257, meant to be bloodless, targeted church leaders and church assets; a second edict in 258 caused blood to flow. Pope Xystus II and four deacons were seized in the catacombs of St Callistus and executed on August 6th. Lawrence, the deacon, was seized and executed on August 10th. (right: Fra Angelico's painting of Lawrence giving alms)
The Poor are the Treasures of the Church
Later popular stories offer the colorful account of Lawrence's martyrdom that shaped popular hagiography and the efforts of artists through the centuries: The Roman prefect, anxious for the money of the church, promised the deacon freedom if he would transfer it over to him. Lawrence responded by asking for three days to get the church's treasures together for delivery to the prefect's house. Then, going through the city he sought all the poor and unfortunate supported by the church and brought them to the prefectís door. "Here are the church's treasures," he told the official, "the blind, the lame, the orphans and the old."
In anger, the prefect ordered Lawrence burned alive on a gridiron. Those witnessing his execution described the saint going to his death cheerfully, even joking with his executioners. "Turn me over, I'm done on this side."