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. I voted for Lawerence, because he help all the poor and neglected and he was very loyal.

  2. Lawrence- a childhood nickname for a cousin who got badly sunburned once... now is a dermatologist (who also volunteers for Medecins Sans Frontieres). So, Lawrence.

  3. Not fair! Two equally amazing people! Albert has been my hero since childhood. My parents' bookshelves were lined with his work and stories about his life, and I have followed suit. But then there's Lawrence - a deacon with an attitude! He knows where the real treasure lies in a church - and that is with the people on the margins. The SEC is really trying my patience today. 🙂

  4. Again, a tough choice.
    At first glance.. for shear unabashed sanctity.. St. Lawrence takes this. Not only for his comedic martyrdom (super yikes!) but his affirmation under duress that the poor were the real treasures of the church.

    However.. imo.. the main criteria to take the golden halo is relatability. imo.. there are just very few modern christians who lust after martyrdom. If Christ returns tomorrow or a thousand years from now.. it's no biggie for most. Many of us are in this for the long game.

    Albert gives us an affirmation that the poor, no matter our bank account balance, alays include ourselves.
    We all must persue the inner life and tread the path toward self actualization to become the treasures of the church.

  5. I'm for Big Al. I was, of course, aware of his work at Lambaréné, which most people probably consider his major contribution, but as an organist I'm far more impressed by his work in organ music, particularly that of Bach, which is too extensive to synopsize here (and which Creech didn't say much about). As long as we're into apocryphal myths, there's a story that while he was at Lambaréné, a goat ate the manuscript to one of the books he was working on.

  6. I voted for Lawrence of the Griddle. He was a deacon as I am a deacon. His passion for the Lord and doing was kind and right cost him everything. I respect and admire Albert S., but a deacon should vote for a deacon. So there. 🙂

  7. I voted for Albert. I'm partial to healers. Also, while Lawrence gave his things directly to the poor, Albert put a system in place for long term benefits to the people. He used his talents effectively. But I do love the "treasures of the church". A powerful image.

  8. I did not know of Lawrence and his 'riches of the Church' is wonderful, but I fell in love with Schweitzer long before I met Christ, with his stories of non-human animals in Africa, and acknowledging their value and right to life and honour. I wanted Albert for the Halo as soon as I saw this year's bracket!

  9. Love Lawrence... another one of the great stories told by parents in museums BUT Albert is one of contemporary great great souls. The bio left out his work for animal rights, and his comprehensive preached and lived "reverence for life" for which he won the Nobel Prize. I too read 'search for the historical Jesus' and it was a furthered my understanding of the multi levels at which we read historical and mythic material. And he too had a sense of humor; as Oliver pointed out, you can see it in his eyes. I'd like to Albert go all the way!

  10. A tough choice; my uncle/godfather was inspired by Schweitzer's example, and himself served several years as a medical missionary in Ethiopia. But what's not to like about Lawrence? Speaking truth to power ("These poor ARE the treasures of the Church!"), sense of humor, even in death (one wonders if he might have been prophetically humming the Byrd's, "Turn, Turn, Turn"), and the patron saint of librarians (my dear wife being one of them).

  11. At St Mark's Altadena Ca. Albert has his own stained glass window. How could I vote differently.

  12. This is a tough one. If the story of Lawrence outwitting the Consul weren't true, it would be necessary to tell it anyway. It is such a clear expression of the Christian message, and one that needs constant repeating in our Romanish culture.
    Albert used his many talents to live the message and serve the underserved for all his days. (I still marvel that as a youngster I saw news stories about Dr. Schweitzer and his mission in Africa. I couldn't understand what would impel someone to make such a strange choice.)

  13. Trying so hard not to make barbeque jokes here...but it appears that Deacon Lawrence wasnt-even at the one thrown in his honor. Viva Lawrence!

  14. Tough choice. I remember seeing film of Schweitzer at Lamberene on the Jack Paar Tonight show (!) - his Christian acts and devotions are inspiring. Yet I'll go for the Henny Youngman of the Gridiron: Lawrence.

  15. Some contemporaries have criticized Schweitzer as "paternalistic, condescending and colonialist" towards Africans and did not teach them to run the hospital, instead relying on Europeans for nurses and doctors. But sadly that was common for the time and Schweitzer was better than most. Besides, as a young boy, I came to appreciate the organ works of Bach from an old recording of his. Sorry Lawrence, I just have to tip towards Albert, so far the most difficult choice in LM this year.

  16. Tough, tough. Schweitzer was a hero while I was growing up. But Lawrence and books and humor (and grills) - and the best "Take this job and shove it" gesture ever.

  17. Hurrah for Albert, he is well deserving but I voted for Lawrence because he was willing to take on a corrupt church and I knew Albert would win. Lawrence was clever in the face of knowing he would be executed.

  18. We deacons are to be the bridge between the church and the world - to bring the needs of the world into the church and to send the church out into the world. How could I not support Lawrence who epitomizes what our diaconal ministry should be?

  19. As a librarian, I was swayed by Lawrence, but then remembered that whilst in library school working on a project where we catalogued a warehouse full of antique books, I found in my pile a book authored and autographed by Doctor Schweitzer. It was an exciting find and led me to learn more about him.

  20. IT IS the worlds Greatest online Lenten Devotion known.
    Wonder how the battles between the -soon to be Saints- on the SEC
    will read in the future?

  21. I went with Lawrence. he sold all and then brought the true meaning of the church riches to the Emperor - gotta luv it.

  22. As a candidate for the diaconate and an avid chef, I had to vote for Deacon Lawrence and the patron saint of cooks! Plus his "treasures of the Church" comment is an incredible reminder of where our "valuable" time should be spent.

  23. It was Lawrence for me today. His boldness confronting the power of the empire with the truth of the powerless as "the treasures of the church" is, priceless!! Albert is amazing and I imagine he will win.

  24. All those out there who always want to vote for the "doers" must be really gnashing their teeth today!

    I found it tough as well. I was all set to vote for Lawrence--for so many of the reasons others have listed--but Schweitzer's being a musician won me over. I'm thrilled by his whole life's story--down to the very end, constructing the very cross that marked his grave.

    And, Oliver, his hair and mustache remind me of some other really cool guys--Einstein, Mark Twain, and if he had had his photo made without combing his hair, William Faulkner!

  25. With profound apologies to the man who brought us not only the Toccata and Fugue in D minor but also the much-less-known Prelude and Fugue in G, I voted for the librarian who refused to give the authorities the names of his fellow Christians (at least I seem to remember something about that, probably from Lent Madness).

  26. Lawrence speaks to me today as a man who took immediate and effective action when needed. That must be the inspiration I need.

  27. A man who bravely faced death vs a man who bravely faced life. Much as I love a smarta**, not to mention the Great Seaway, there are two ways to take that famous quote about the treasures of the church. Figuratively or quite literally. St Lawrence was in charge of the church's wealth and charity which he protected ...right up until the day he was ordered to turn it over to Rome. Rather than doing so, he distributed it among the people. So, when questioned as to its location, he very truthfully answered. It was in the pockets of the people. Whether he did it out of charity or did it out of spite is between him and God. Sorry, but my money is on the treasure who said: "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."

  28. It is so much easier to vote for the more modern saints because we know more 'facts' about them. Albert Schweitzer is certainly worthy of our admiration. However, while perhaps the quips while he was being killed were apocryphal, the core story of Lawrence giving away all his and the church's possessions resonantes as the probably kernel of truth in the story, and I very much admire that. I'm going with him.