Feast of St Lawrence

Fr Paul reads the Gospel from John (12: 24-26) when Jesus tells his disciples that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground, it remains but a grain of wheat. It is the feast of St Lawrence, deacon and martyr, and Fr Paul shares what is known about him and about the role of deacons in our church.

Fr Paul says, unfortunately, few facts are known about Lawrence. What is known is that he was one of seven deacons of the church in Rome and he was executed by the, then, emperor on 10 August 258AD.  He was executed four days after Pope Sixtus II was also executed.

Fifty years later, the emperor Constantine arranged for a basilica to be built over the tomb of St Lawrence and that his anniversary would be celebrated as a feast in the church.

Other than this, Fr Paul says there is not a lot of detail to share but that it might raise the question about the difference between a deacon and a priest.

In our church, we have two kinds of deacons at this point in our history. We have ‘transitional deacons’, where a student who has studied for the priesthood becomes a deacon in a time of transition from that particular order into the order of presbyters (when he becomes a priest). It is a stepping-stone from one order to another. We also have ‘permanent deacons’ who are allowed to marry; we have a number of married men in our diocese who have their own families and serve as deacons in our church in a variety of ministries. There are two things a deacon can’t do: he can’t hear confessions or celebrate the Eucharist.

The vestments a deacon wears are also different from that of the priest. If you walked into a church and saw a minister in a robe and his stole when over both shoulders and down the front that would tell you he was a priest but if you saw minister in an alb with the stole running across from one shoulder to another that indicates that he is a deacon.

Also you’ll find when the priest celebrates the Eucharist he wears the chasuble which is the larger gown over the top of every he wears, whereas the deacon wears a dalmatic, which has sleeves (unlike the chasuble).  It’s through these type of differences you can distinguish between the two.

And so, Fr Paul reminds us, today we celebrate and remember the life of St Lawrence, deacon and martyr of our church.