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St. Lawrence, An Ill Advised Patron Saint

For a long time, I was only aware of one patron saint. St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers. I wore a St. Michael medal until I finally retired from policing last year.

St. Michael seems the kind of guy to have looking after you. When you look over his deeds you find that he got involved in a lot of good stuff. He protected this one, he defeated that one, he battled those guys.  That’s a pretty impressive resume if you’re applying to protect a bunch of folks in a dangerous occupation.

But This Is About St. Lawrence

Yes, that St. Lawrence (public domain, wikimedia)

I recently ran across some information, so now I know two patron saints. St. Lawrence is the patron saint of cooks.

Yes, St. Lawrence. Perhaps you recall the name from elementary school geography; the St. Lawrence seaway allows ships to travel from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, that St. Lawrence.

No, I don’t know why a seaway is named after the patron saint of cooks. Maybe the members of the naming committee were hungry.

St. Michael got the job of coming to the aid of police officers by being a guy who stood up to evil. So you might guess that St. Lawrence got his gig looking after cooks because he was pretty handy with a skillet and was comfortable with a stand mixer. That isn’t the case.

Whipping up a souffle is not among his deeds. There are no records of him stir frying anything. There isn’t even a mention of him pouring a kid a bowl of Cap’n Crunch.

St. Lawrence didn’t get his job because he could cook. Larry got the gig because he got cooked.

What A Sense Of Humor

Young Lawrence was in charge of the wealth of the Catholic church during the days of the Roman Empire. When the Empire demanded that he hand over the church’s loot, Lawrence asked for three days to gather it all. He used those three days to distribute the churches riches to the poor.

According to this painting, some guy was heckling Lawrence from an upstairs apartment. How uncool. (public domain via brooklynmuseum.org)

While giving to the poor is a very cool thing to do, the Romans took issue with Lawrence. The prefect who’d ordered him to hand over the loot now ordered that a giant gridiron be built. No, not a gridiron as in football field. Think backyard grill. Once they had the grill built, they roasted Lawrence over hot coals.

Legend has it that after he’d roasted for a good while, Lawrence called out “I’m well done, turn me over!” The legend doesn’t mention if he also asked for sour cream and chives for his baked potato.

Lawrence was an admirable guy. He gave to the poor and he had a great sense of humor, even in a dire situation. I’m all for him being a saint, even though I don’t get to vote on such things.

My concern is with what he is the saint of. Being a cook and being cooked are two different things. While his experience may have given him some empathy toward sirloin, he likely gained no insight as to how a sirloin is best prepared.

A Systemic Problem

At best, making St. Lawrence the patron saint of cooks is like playing a cruel joke on him. At worst, it is no better than appointing someone with no arms to be the patron saint of jugglers.

But the armless patron saint of jugglers isn’t really a good example. While it does get my point across, by using that example I have to ask you to forget that you know that St. Julian is the patron saint of jugglers. I wouldn’t ask you to do that.

Julian is also the patron saint of murderers.  I can only presume he got that job because, like the best jugglers, all the best murderers have both their arms.

You know, perhaps we have a saint problem. I think there should be a committee to look in to the matter.

There is no patron saint of committees.

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5 Comments on “St. Lawrence, An Ill Advised Patron Saint”

  1. You are right. That is a weird one. Having grown up with the St. Lawrence Seaway in my backyard including several lift locks to maneuver through it I am surprised I have never heard this story. I’m also surprised I never heard anyone ask about who St Lawrence is. I suspect I will be visiting the little museum that is at Lock Three to learn more.

  2. lbwoodgate says:

    When confirmed as a youth in the catholic church you get to select a patron saint as your confirmation name. I picked St. George, the dragon slayer. A lot of good that does me today in a world empty of dragons.

  3. robincoyle says:

    “Maybe the members of the naming committee were hungry.” You crack me up.

    Saint Michael is also the patron saint of soldiers. We gave Amanda a Saint Michael medal when she went into the army. Saint Mike is a busy guy.

    You know what they say about committees . . . ask a committee to design a horse and you end up with a camel.

  4. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    That’s just awful! I like a sardonic sense of humor and satire as much as the next person, but how could they? That’s just all wrong. That painting. The image will stay with me throughout the day. It will hit me again when I walk past my sister’s outdoor grill.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is it wrong to wonder what St. Lawrence tasted like? Yes? Then I didn’t do that.


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