the Deacon, continued
Constantine not only gave the Christian church freedom, he also obtained for it generous subsidies from the empire. Imperial donations and gifts from the upper classes built numerous churches and shrines for the celebration of the Christian liturgy and for honoring saints like Lawrence. An age of triumphal church building had begun after centuries of persecution.
Some Christians, however, wondered if the pursuit of monuments weakened the church. They recalled simpler times, the times of Lawrence, when Christian resources were channeled generously to the poor. That debate continues through history. The story of Lawrence, therefore, not only stirs admiration, it raises questions about Christian values. He represents a church with a strong corporate witness of charity, committed to helping the marginalized, even at the risk of antagonizing other powerful forces. His church grew because of its commitment to the poor.
A large fresco of the saint stands today at the entrance to the Vatican Museum's Chapel of Nicholas V, which contains priceless works of art. But the saint seems blind to all of the riches, as he proclaims another message boldly incribed beneath his feet: The Poor are the Treasures of the Church. (above, right: Lawrence receiving treasures of the Church from Pope Sixtus, by Fra Angelico)