St Lawrence, whose feast we keep today, was one of the seven deacons of Rome martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258. When the prefect of Rome demanded that he should give up the treasure of the Church, Lawrence asked for three days in which to gather it together (or so St Ambrose says). When the day came to deliver it up, he presented the poor, the disabled, and the needy. They, he said, were the treasure of the Church.
As someone who loves the artistic and cultural riches of the Church, its intellectual and musical wealth, I find Lawrence’s action a challenge. I don’t myself think we should divest the Church of everything material, but it is a powerful reminder of the importance of what we in the monastery call ‘detachment’. We are stewards for a short while, and it is important that we should be honest and trustworthy, not storing up treasure for ourselves on earth but treasure in heaven through generous and selfless service of the poor and needy. Poverty and neediness take many forms, and are not always to be identified with material want. Indeed, spiritual poverty can lead to terrible evils, as we saw yesterday in the life of St Teresa Benedicta and all those destroyed by the Nazis.
So, the question for today is: how am I to serve, who are the poor and needy I must reach?