Once, a few years past, from a comedian in one of those late-night TV shows.
The latest just a few days ago, as part of the answer in this year’s Jeopardy Teen Tournament.
As most of you are probably aware [Roman Catholics know this very well] the Vatican has a patron saint for just about anything you can think of.
This webpage tells us about Lawrence, one of seven deacons charged with helping the poor and the needy in Rome, sometime around A.D. 258.
|To make the Word known to all|
He was, the webpage says, condemned “to a slow, cruel death. The saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. ‘Turn me over,’ he said to the judge. ‘I'm done on this side!’ And just before he died, he said, ‘It's cooked enough now.’ "
Apparently, such stoicism was enough to make him the patron saint for cooks, a fact that the comedian referenced above considered quite jocular [Lawrence is also invoked as patron by archivists, librarians and tanners].
Practically the same information can be found in Wikipedia, where his patronage of “cooks and chefs” is also listed — though archivists, librarians and tanners are omitted — and a cautionary note has been added.
Historians, says the cyberpedia, note that the manner of Lawrence's martyrdom contrasts with the decapitation by which deacons were supposed to be executed.
It also adds this other historian’s theory about how such tradition was created: “He postulates that it was the result of a mistaken transcription, the accidental omission of the letter ‘p’ – ‘by which the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est [‘he suffered,’ that is, was martyred] – was made to read assus est [he was roasted].”
[Incidentally, given that we are talking about patron saints, this would probably be a good time to remember what happened around St. Chad , also a Roman Catholic saint that news stories back in 2000 touted as “patron saint of elections”. There is no such thing, says the webpage: “Due to the somewhat confused nature of Chad's appointment and the continued references to 'chads' — small pieces of ballot papers punched out by voters using voting machines — in the 2000 US Presidential Election it has been jocularly suggested that Chad is the patron saint of botched elections. In fact there is no official patron saint of elections, though Thomas More is the one of politicians.”]
I haven’t mentioned Lawrence of Rome [OK, OK, Saint Lawrence if you insist!] because of any particular interest in making fun of the tradition about the way he was executed. Neither do I consider him hero, even if [without the sainthood bit, since that’s not how my belief goes] I have no problem in believing him a martyr.
You have to admit though that one could do either, depending on whether you are a cynic or count yourself among the Roman Catholic faithful.
Not a cowboy but a hero. That’s how I wanted to title this introductory post about William Tyndale, whose biography will also inform you about how he became a martyr.