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. Both of these are worthy of my vote. I always have a tough time deciding when one is from long ago with mostly legends to go on and the other is from modern times with known records. Albert did so much to serve and his time in the internment camp was part of that service since he could have gone home before he became a prisoner. But I had to go with Lawrence today because of presenting the poor, the sick, the outcast, the orphaned and the unloved as "the treasures of the Church". Also, he's the patron saint of librarians.

  2. Libraries, the realization that the poor were the treasures of the church, and a sense or humor. Lawrence is my kind of Saint.

  3. A nice lady (widowed I think) who lived in my little hometown was a practical nurse. She called herself a Mother's Helper and she'd come and stay in a home if there was a new baby or illness or someone just needed an extra hand. One day, when she was at our house, helping while my mother recovered from meningitis, she asked my father for an envelope. She had pen and paper and she wanted to answer a letter she'd gotten--and she showed us the thick letter with odd handwriting--from cousin Albert in Africa. I didn't understand then why my father was SO impressed. Of course I voted for cousin Albert.

    1. What a beautiful memory to cherish. I guess helping others runs in the Schweitzer family. It's also nice to remember that good works come with many different life styles and skill sets.

  4. Although I really liked Lawrence "these are the treasures of the church", I do not think you should sell things that do not belong to you. ( fire sale) Schweitzer on the hand has my vote. He used money he earned to build a hospital.

  5. A tough one for me. I love Lawrence for his goodness and his sense of humor. Plus upon my "return" to the faith, the priest who helped me and has remained a good friend since was named Laurence. Thanks, Father Larry! At my church we have a painting with Sts. Mary, Stephen and Lawrence, with Larry holding his gridiron and Steve contemplating a rock. Why do we remember saints for how they died and not for the good work they did? As for Albert, he was still alive when I was a child and I remember how admired he was, but mostly as a child I knew he played the organ, and I pictured him in a hut in Africa playing church music surrounded by the locals.

    1. Because their deaths are considered their greatest sacrifice, and their gateway to paradise, I suppose. I agree, though, symbols of their life's work would be of more significance to our modern way of thinking.

  6. Tough choice. Have always loved Laurence's recognition of the true treasures of the church. Didn't know he was patron of librarians, which I value But Schweitzer's combination of music, scholarship and service won the day for me.

  7. I was all set to vote for Albert but then I read about Lawrence being roasted on the grill. I thought that deserved a halo and a vote.

  8. Albert tended to believe that the people he served needed his paternalistic guidance. Lawrence, on the other hand, seems to believe everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

  9. I find it hard to believe the Lawrence story, As above Albert was an admired figure when I was a child. He was dedicated to helping others. My vote went to Albert.

  10. Another really tough one! I voted for Lawrence, because, among other things, that's my husband's middle name. He also reminds me of our current Pope, who speaks often and forcefully about the true treasures of the Church. All of the candidates are such an inspiration and cause for reflection.

    And, Oliver, you're the best!

  11. Lawrence was the patron saint of libraries, but the write up only mentioned it at the end --with nothing to bolster the statement.

  12. I grew up with stories and quotes from Albert Schweitzer. I know he allowed the families of his patients to be with their loved one in the hospital and cook familiar food for them. But one quote has shaped my life, "There are three ways to teach children: by example, by example and by example."

  13. I love to read the comments, because often facts are highlighted that don't always jump out at me when I read the articles. I also love Lent Madness because I learn so much about individuals that aren't necessarily highlighted in my denomination.

    Today I vote for Lawrence! I'm a book lover, my husband is a book lover, and my 9 year old says she wants to be a librarian when she grows up.

  14. Toughest choice yet! Loved it that Lawerence is patron saint of libraries; I love books! Love it that he gave away material things to help the poor, then called Them the church's treasures, but my vote went to Albert, one of my all-time childhood heroes; I'd always wanted to help the sick. Never was able to become a nurse, but was a home health aide for many years!

  15. I was predisposed to vote for Albert until I read Lawrence's "These are the treasures of the Church."
    As the sister of a lovely, loving woman with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I think of those who are in the shadows of society, and often forgotten, unrecognized and undervalued. Thank you, Lawrence, for raising them up and helping us remember to see and treasure them!

  16. Martyrs are important but a musician who used his intellect and talent to help others gets my vote. He really connected his Art to action.

  17. I had to go with Lawrence as I grew up in St. Lawrence county NY. The story of his treasures of the church had me teary. We so often forget that where our "treasure" is, our heart will be also!

  18. Ah! A difficult choice for me today. As an alum of St. Lawrence University, where his purported quips in the course of his martydom we treated as absolute truth, I was sure I would cast my vote for such a worthy saint... but after reading of how Schweitzer put himself through medical school specifically to minister to the poor and needy, and used his own money to build such a far-reaching medical complex, I finally went for Albert, instead! Also because. music! Besides, the hair is just too charmingly messy!

  19. I'm thankful for both, again, but my vote is with Albert today, as one who wrote, taught, and made beautiful music, all very dear to my heart. May God raise up more Renaissance men and women, boys and girls, today, who will not hold back from using all the good gifts He's given them to bring Him glory in every arena in our culture!

  20. Well, as a deacon postulant and avid grill-girl, our house votes for Lawrence. (Though I prefer being next to the grill...!)

  21. Wondered what Lawrence would do after being told to return the "treasures of the church." What he did, plus the fact that he is the patron saint of libraries, won my vote.