Today’s Saint – Saint Lawrence – is famous as a deacon in Rome. As a deacons in the early church, Lawrence had the responsibility for the material goods of the Church & distributing alms to the poor. In the third century when the Roman emperor ordered the death of the Pope, the prefect then ordered for the churches goods to be handed over. When St. Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasure as alms.”Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the church’s crown.”
When reading this I though of the commitment to the poor of Pope Francis – like Lawrence his faith was rooted in the daily struggle of the people he lived with. It is a rooted faith – and then of course I thought of his football team San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence). It is great to hear that he is keeping his membership up (reminding me to renew my Liverpool membership card!). Like many football teams San Lorenzo’s roots are actually ecclesial. San Lorenzo was formed by a group of kids that used to play football in the corner of two busy streets of Buenos Aires. Due to the increasing traffic in the city, playing football at the streets became a risky activity for the boys. Fr Lorenzo Massa, the priest of the neighbourhood’s church, saw how a tram almost knocked down one of the boys while they were playing in the streets. As a way to prevent more accidents, he offered the boys to play in the church’s backyard, under the condition they had to go to mass on Sundays. Wanting to call the club after him the priest denied to be honoured that way. Nevertheless, the name was finally accepted by the priest, explaining that the name would not honour himself but , St Lawrence of Rome
Pope Francis still pays his annual membership fee – and so proud of their fan becoming the Pope – San Lorenzo recently took to the pitch with his face replacing the advertising on their shirts. A faith that is rooted and close to the passions of the people – that reminds us that God is close to us in all things. A faith that shares the passions of many. The 34rd General Congregation of the Jesuits published a decree on our mission and culture – at one point it says ”(as Jesuits) …. We have sometimes sided with the “high culture” of the elite in a particular setting: disregarding the cultures of the poor and sometimes, by our passivity, allowing indigenous cultures or communities to be destroyed” ….. On a final note I recommend a great book called ‘Thank God for Football’ by Wirral author Peter Lupson – he traces the roots of Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Southampton, Swindon Town and Tottenham Hotspur all back to churches and priests / ministers!