Today marks the feast of a patron for deacons, St. Lawrence, guardian of the treasures of the Church. St. Ambrose reports that when Deacon Lawrence was ordered by the prefect to turn over the Church’s wealth, he spent three days rounding up the city’s poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering. He presented them to the prefect, and announced that these were the true treasures of the Church. This act of defiance led directly to Lawrence’s martyrdom. He was burned to death on a gridiron — at one point, saying, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.” (In addition to being the patron saint of deacons, he’s also the patron of chefs. Really. Who says the Church doesn’t have a sense of humor?)
Less well known, however, is Lawrence’s reputed connection to the Holy Grail:
According to lore, among the treasure of the Roman church entrusted to Lawrence for safe-keeping was the Holy Chalice, the cup from which Jesus and the Apostles drank at the Last Supper. Lawrence was able to spirit this away to Huesca, in present day Aragon, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. When Augustine connects Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass:
“For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood”.
According to Christian history the Holy Grail is a relic that was sent by St. Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend whom he knew would travel back to Huesca, remaining in the monastery of Saint John of Pena, core of spiritual strength for the emerging kingdom of Aragon. While the Holy Chalice’s exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is generally accepted by Catholics that the Chalice was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate that this chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.
Somebody should tell Indiana Jones.
Anyway: this day the Church prays these words in the Liturgy of the Hours:
you called Saint Lawrence to serve you by love
and crowned his life with glorious martyrdom.
Help us to be like him
in loving you and doing your work.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.