St. Laurence was a deacon of Rome as he is shown in this Russian icon, wearing the deacon’s vestments and holding a censer. He was born in Osca in Aragon, Spain in the 3rd century, and as a young man met the future bishop Sixtus. Together they were a part of a migration to Rome, and while there in a.d. 257 Sixtus was chosen to become the Bishop of Rome. Pope Sixtus ordained St. Laurence to be a deacon and elevated him to the chief of the seven deacons who served the patriarch. St. Laurence then took charge of the distribution of alms among the poor from the church’s treasury.
The Emperor Valerian began this same year a great persecution of the Church, and soon after Pope Sixtus was caught serving liturgy, and sentenced to death with four of his other deacons. St. Laurence followed Sixtus and grieved over not being called to martyrdom, but Sixtus told him that he, too, would follow him in martyrdom in three days. The Emperor wanted to see the Church’s riches, thinking of gold, but St. Laurence showed him instead the poor faithful, the true riches of the Church, angering the Emperor who martyred St. Laurence, roasting him alive on a gridiron.