Lawrence vs. Albert Schweitzer

As the drive toward the Golden Halo continues, we meet a martyred 3rd century deacon and an early 20th century renaissance man, humanitarian, and Nobel Prize winner. Lawrence lived out his faith in Rome, giving all that he had to the poor while Albert Schweitzer gave much of his energy and talents to building hospitals to care for the sick.

Yesterday, in the second lopsided contest in as many days, Sojourner Truth set Soren Kierkegaard free 77% to 23%. She'll face the winner of Frances Joseph-Gaudet vs. John Mason Neale in the Saintly Sixteen.

And remember, if anyone "grills" you about Lent Madness today, just tell them it's the world's greatest online Lenten devotion!


saint-lawrence-lyon-franceLawrence of Rome was a deacon who was martyred during the Valerian persecution of the Roman Church in 258. As he watched Pope Sixtus II being taken into custody, Lawrence cried out, asking Sixtus, “Father, where do you go without your deacon?” Sixtus replied that he would not leave Lawrence, but that Lawrence would follow him in three days. Upon hearing Sixtus’s statement, and in apparent joy that he would soon meet the nearer presence of the Lord, Lawrence went out and offered all he had to the poor, the widowed, and the orphans of Rome, even selling the vessels of the church to increase the amount of alms to distribute. When a Roman prefect became aware of Lawrence’s fire sale, he charged Lawrence to yield all the treasures of the church to the emperor within three days. Lawrence agreed to do so.

Lawrence went out among the city, seeking the lowest of society, the sick, the outcast, the orphaned, and the unloved. Three days later, this gathering made their way to the Roman prefect, who turned to Lawrence in rage. Lawrence, seeing the official’s anger, turned to him and reportedly asked, “What are you displeased at? These are the treasures of the Church.”

In return, Lawrence (sometimes spelled Laurence) was condemned to a slow death on a hot gridiron. After hours of torture, Lawrence is reputed to have quipped, “Let my body be turned; this side is well done enough.” After still more time, he spoke to his executioner, saying, “Assam est; versa et manduca!” which translates roughly to, “It is well done; turn it over and eat!” With his final quip, he died. While modern scholars have dismissed the legend as a fable, the story was clearly known to Ambrose, Augustine, and Prudentius, among others. After Constantine’s legalization of Christianity in 315 CE, a chapel was constructed over Lawrence’s grave in the Roman catacombs.

Lawrence’s martyrdom continues to inspire devotion. For his piety and charity to the poor and outcast of Rome, he remains venerated as one of the city’s patron saints. While traditionally depicted in art holding a gridiron, the legendary instrument of his death, he is not, so far as sources can tell, the patron saint of American football, but he is the patron of archivists and librarians.

Collect for Lawrence
Almighty God, you called your deacon Lawrence to serve you with deeds of love, and gave him the crown of martyrdom: Grant that we, following his example, may fulfill your commandments by defending and supporting the poor, and by loving you with all our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—David Sibley

Albert Schweitzer

Polymath Albert Schweitzer was born January 14, 1875, in Kayersberg, Germany (now France). He was the son of a Lutheran pastor and studied theology at what is now known as the University of Strasbourg. He wrote many important volumes, perhaps none as influential as The Quest for the Historical Jesus. He was also an internationally regarded concert organist and musicologist.

In 1905, at age thirty, Schweitzer felt called to take up medicine to help those in need. Eight years later, Schweitzer and his wife, Hélène, founded a hospital in Lambaréné Gabon in French Equatorial Africa. In 1917 they were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war. Four months later they were released. The following year, they returned to Europe, where Schweitzer resumed writing books, performing concerts, and preaching in churches. In 1924, Schweitzer returned to Lambaréné, where he lived until his death on September 4, 1965. He used royalties from books, speaking fees, concert revenues, and donations to transform the humble hospital into a massive complex capable of serving more than five hundred patients at a time.

He was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Africa. In his later years, he used his platform to warn against the dangers of nuclear proliferation and to lobby for an end to nuclear testing. He is buried on the hospital grounds with his wife. A cross he made with his own hands marks his grave.

Collect for Albert Schweitzer
Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Albert Schweitzer to be a light in the world: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

— David Creech

Lawrence vs. Albert Schweitzer

  • Albert Schweitzer (60%, 4,113 Votes)
  • Lawrence (40%, 2,775 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,888

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Lawrence: Limoges polychrome enamel plaque, late 16th century–early 17th century.
Albert Schweitzer: By Nobel Foundation ( [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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209 comments on “Lawrence vs. Albert Schweitzer”

    1. While I appreciate Lawrence and his definition of the "treasures" of the church, I have to agree with Oliver. With that hairdo and that twinkle, Albert had to be a fun guy!

    2. If I had chosen to serve in equatorial Africa at that time I would want someone with a twinkle in his eyes to be working beside me. Good call, Oliver!

      1. Oh, come on. Anyone with a sense of humor like Lawrence while in dire circumstances has my vote. He needs to be patron saint of grill masters!

  1. Gotta go with the underdog today: Lawrence (and his grill!). One year, I went to an All Saints' Day costume party as Lawrence... So he gets my vote!

      1. Me too, for Lawrence. Hideous executions continue to this day, and am sure Lawrence awaits the newly executeds' arrival in Heaven to comfort them. But, have loved Schweitzer since learning of him as a child. Hard decision again!

  2. I "should" vote for Albert for the good he accomplished. But Lawrence had my vote as the patron saint of libraries- also his understanding of the true treasures of the Church. (But I am rooting for Albert to win.)

    1. ChrisinNY, are you a librarian, too? Maybe I should change my signature to ChristineinNY. As a librarian and archivist, I had to vote for Lawrence. But my vote may be cancelled out by my husband's, as he is very much a musician--vocal, instrumental, and composing.

      1. Schweitzer was the physician who would not allow flies to be killed in his operating room. the fly had to captured and released outside. At the end of his book _In Quest of the Historical Jesus_, he says something wonderful:
        “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside,
        He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”
        It is so moving that the noted composer Jane Marshall has set the words in an excellent anthem. One of the few anthems taken directly out of a theology text.

    2. Well, my husband is a sometimes substitute organist, but I am a library assistant (not librarian) so I went for Lawrence today.

    3. I, too,cannot but vote for the patron saint of libraries. 31 years as a librarian make this necessary.

    4. My husband works for the libraries here in south Florida, and he is also a musician. I could vote either way, but he plays his guitar once a month at the worship service at the homeless shelter, which happens to be known as St. Laurence Chapel. St Lawrence gets my vote!

    5. As part Italian (the Rome connection) and a fellow librarian Lawrence gets my vote. I also like the way he outwitted the authorities while showing that people not things are the true treasures of the church.

  3. This was a hard one for me. I REALLY wanted to vote for both. But Lawrence's quote, "These are the treasures of the Church" was what finally decided me. I want to remember that one.

    1. Yes, I voted for Lawrence too for that comment. Not only a heart for the poor but there had to be a bit of snark in there as well. Gotta go with the guy with a sense of humor.

  4. Lawrence's story touched me, but I also appreciated his wry humor (or such humor being attributed to him).

    1. That's what makes this one SO hard--I took organ lessons as a teenager and had a couple of Schweitzer's big green books for years AND I spent a good 20 years volunteering and working in libraries (library technician).

      1. That is hard! Re-read the short biographies and decide based on what each man did, not what group he is considered the patron saint of. Good luck with your choice!

  5. Organist and musicologist!! I had to vote for him - it's because I loved music, especially Bach, first that I am now studying theology.

  6. A tough decision today. I love the story of Lawrence and the treasures of the Church, but as a musician and the mother of a musicologist, the vote today is for Albert.

  7. Although we have never had a two-fer before (as the SEC enjoys pitting brother against brother), we have one today. Mrs. Schweitzer must have been made of pretty hardy stuff herself to have shared this man's life and vision.

  8. Delight is one thing the Saints give us. A small measure perhaps, compared to the delight God take in them. What greater delight than Lawrence's presentation to the Emperor of the treasures of the Church. Perhaps if I had heard Albert play. I remember reading Historical Jesus ages ago, and living since with the notion that Jesus presented Himself in a vastly different role than He is presented to us (by Paul especially). You can't put that toothpaste back in the tube. I think I must 'blame' Albert with my preterist inclinations. Come to think of it -- listening to Jesus (in the Gospels) through a preterist lens is a source of no small delight. But I've already cast my vote for Lawrence. I'm reminded of the grate (gridiron?) sleepers of the 80s. That small comfort denied the homeless by various means -- including barbed wire. I think Lawrence might be their patron saint.

    1. Thank you for your have inspired me to deepen my theological education...the word Preterism is new to me ...lots more reading and prayerful study are in order!

    2. This was a tough one for me. While I have great admiration for Einstein, Laurence got my vote with his presentation of the "treasures" of the Church.

    3. What do you mean, grate sleepers of the 80's? The last time I was in NYC (in January) it was very cold, and I saw people lying on the grates near Penn Station. Their life hasn't changed much. (I had foot surgery on Jan. 11 and haven't been anywhere except medical appointments since.)

      1. In a lot of places circumstances for people who are homeless have changed a great deal. Spaces and furniture are now being designed now with the specific intention of being inhospitable to homeless people. In some places it's even illegal to give homeless people food.

        I love Lawrence's definition of the riches of the church; but as a former physician and missionary to Africa, had to go with Albert!

  9. Besides that St. Lawrence is my parish, I voted for his recognition of the treasures of the church And for his wry sense of humor.

  10. Albert Schweitzer is a model that we should all follow. As retired physician and a currant musician, I am further drawn to him, and his dedication to ending nuclear proliferation should have cinched my vote for him. Lawrence, however won me over as well with his daring presentation of the sick, the outcast, the orphaned, and the unloved as the true treasures of the Church. Lawrence gets my vote.

  11. Voted for Lawrence because he was a comedian to the very end and he's the underdog in today's match. I admire Albert greatly though. It's a tough choice.

    1. I agree. I voted for Lawrence because his picture is one of the few in which the saint is actually smiling! And his definition of the treasures of the church is priceless.

  12. thinking he was going to die, Lawrence gave away all his belongings - Wouldn't you do the same??
    My vote very strongly goes to Al

  13. Albert Schweitzer has been my hero since I was a child. Our Sunday school teachers
    used his good works as a prime example of God working amoung us.
    So glad he is in the running.

  14. Schweizer was so steadfast in his mission. He just kept pushing along with his calling. A genius and a devout Christian. And I cannot resist a musician.

    1. I have to agree with Lincoel on Lawrence,how people that you know will recognized the poor,the sick & unloved to the treasures of the church

  15. My wife and I live on an island in the 1000 Islands in the summer. The islands are in the St. Lawrence river. A statue of St. Lawrence is located near the 1000 Islands bridge on the Canadian side of the river. Our family love this part of God's world with a passion. How could I not vote for Lawrence?

    1. I'm with Lindy on this one, plus, as Music Resonator, I jibe with Albert.

      We were at a church supper last night, and dang, we should have brought our LM mugs from two years ago for our wine. My husband balked: while he asks me every day about LM (if he voted, we would have to do so from the same computer, even though he has an address he never uses), he prefers to drink wine from a glass. I've not approached our rector about a mug as chalice, but I suspect he would respond similarly.

      1. There was a pint glass for Brigid last year, I use mine frequently. (Perhaps TOO frequently.) Maybe this year the Silver Halo winner might be commemorated with a wineglass? I'm sure the good folk at Forward Movement can work that out.

      1. Hardest one for me yet!
        Albert was brilliant with is preaching a, writings and he built a hospital and helped people.
        Seems like a worthy vote.
        But I voted for Lawrence.❤️
        Real devolution and faith AND HUMOR!
        Today he would be HEAD of the SEC!

        1. I also voted for Lawrence. Although Albert Schweitzer's Nobel Prize is well deserved, I had to vote for the man who was a martyr for his faith, especially if the legend that he retained his sense of humor while being tortured is true. His statement "These are the treasures of the Church" is another good reason to vote for him. These two were sufficient. The fact that he is the patron saint of librarians and archivists is a plus. As a librarian (in central NJ) who has done some archival work, I think I'll start asking Lawrence for his prayers. The community I serve can use all the help it can get! And most days I could use some, too.