One of the best known advocates of the poor was a deacon named Lawrence.
St. Lawrence lived during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian in 258. According to legend, he worked as one of seven deacons under Pope Sixtus II. His responsibilities included managing the Church's material goods, as well as the giving of alms to the poor. In that capacity, Lawrence sold some of the Church's possessions and distributed the money to those who had nothing.
When Valerian heard this, he decided that the pope and the Christians must be extremely wealthy. So he demanded Lawrence bring him the Church's treasures.
Knowing that his days as a free man were probably limited, the deacon replied that the Church indeed was wealthy and asked for time to inventory and present its great wealth. Valerian agreed.
For the next three days, Lawrence gathered together the poor, the widows and orphans, and the sick of Rome. he then presented them to Valerian, declaring, "These are the riches of the Church."
The angry emperor ordered Lawrence killed.
The feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, is celebrated August 10.
Today is the feast day of another deacon, St. Benjamin, who was martyred in 424 AD.
- Little Black Book, Diocese of Saginaw