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How St. Lawrence became the patron saint of comedians

St. Lawrence
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Even in the midst of his martyrdom, the holy deacon was able to crack a joke.

During the 3rd century, there were seven deacons who served Pope Sixtus II in Rome. The Empire remained a volatile place for Christians and Emperor Valerian’s reign was no exception.

What put St. Lawrence in the crosshairs of the Roman Empire was the belief that the Catholic Church possessed great amounts of treasure. A Roman official questioned Lawrence about the location of the Church’s treasure, and he responded by saying, “Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church’s crown.”

His clever response wasn’t received too well and Lawrence was consequently put into prison. It didn’t take long for the Roman official to sentence Lawrence to a cruel death, as he obstinately refused to worship the Roman gods. The Golden Legend narrates what happens next and is the primary reason why St. Lawrence is invoked by many comedians.

The executioners therefore stripped him, laid him out on the iron grill, piled burning coals under it, and pressed heated iron pitchforks upon his body. And with a cheerful countenance [Lawrence] said to [the Roman official]: “Look, wretch, you have me well done on one side, turn me over and eat!”

This comedic response enraged his executioners, who simply turned up the heat and let Lawrence burn to death.

One of the reasons why Lawrence was able to find levity in such a dark situation was his belief in Heaven. He knew that dying for the Christian faith would pave the way to his eternal reward and did not fear death. In fact, he embraced death and looked forward to what would happen next. His last words were a prayer to God, “I thank you, O Lord, because I have been worthy to pass through your portals!”

Lawrence’s example of joy-filled faith in the midst of suffering is an example to us all and reminds us that we don’t have to resign ourselves to being gloomy Christians. Even a saint can have a little fun!

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