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. Another really difficult choice! I voted for Lawrence after a lot of back-and-forthing, for his charity and courage and wit, even under torture, and for being the patron of archivists and librarians. The lovely little Collect was a significant factor in my choice, as well.

  2. Tough decision, but I went for Albert.... Nobel Peace Prize, founding a hospital for the sick and improving & maintaining it with the royalties from his God-given talents and lobbying for an end to nuclear testing. Truly a saint for modern times.

  3. Lawrence is my choice.
    I am a musician and greatly appreciate Schweitzer's contributions, especially in the works of Bach, but Lawrence's belief in the importance of the poor in our lives speaks to today's world. Pope Francis, if he was participating in Lent Madness would say that Lawrence was an ancient model of the world's need at this point in time

  4. It seems Albert Schweitzer is roasting the competition today. Lawrence must be pretty burned out. Though both men had their hearts in the right place, I voted for Lawrence because of his (supposed) wry humor, bravery in the face of death, and his knowledge of who the true treasures of the Church are. I'll definitely use his collect.

  5. His presentation of the "treasures of the church" was the decider for me, too, in voting for Lawrence.

  6. I voted for St. Lawrence, but it looks like Albert is scorching him. As with St. Denis, another excellent source of Saintly Kitsch for the Elate Eight will advance no more. I submit a proposal to the SEC that there be a special edition of Saintly Kitsch (some Monday, perhaps) with examples for saints that don't make it that far?

  7. Lest we forget, the treasures of the church belong to GOD, not the people so Lawrence didn't give away people's stuff. Of most importance is the undisputed truth that Lawrence was a deacon and in 2014, I retired as a Vocational Deacon at Christ Church Cathedral-Diocese of Tennessee after 25 years of service also at St. Matthias and St. Anselm. We never desert our own. Onward worthy bloggers !

  8. I voted for Lawrence,he believed in the church with all of his heart,he even believed that the ones that are unworthy are worth something in the church & in the eye of god

    1. As a deacon for 22 years, I voted happily for Lawrence - the deacon's deacon. We need not only to remember and pray for the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, we must act constructively to help the treasures of the church.

  9. Oliver and Others: I cast my vote for Big Al today. I have admired him all my life. I must say, after reading about Lawrence I developed a real fondness for the guy. Anyone who can joke about their doneness while being roasted has quite a sense of humor.

  10. Voted for Lawrence. I loved that he recognized the poor, lonely, forgotten and burdened as the treasures of the church. I've often looked at people at Mass - can't say I attend on a weekly basis though! - and thought to myself - we're all here for different reasons, but when we're all together at Mass each of our burdens seem less......burdensome. Lawrence recognized that the people who love God are the treasures of his church, not things. Love that he's the patron saint of librarians and archivists. Would we even have Lent Madness without archivists!!!?? Love Al's contributions too. Modern day saints seem harder to identify, but he sure is worthy.

  11. Tough one for me - because Laurence correctly identified the treasures of the Church, and because there is probably a whole lot more about Laurence we don't know. I do know that I think of him every time I use my George Foreman Grill. Albert we know more about because he is more contemporary. In the end I voted for Albert because he of the continuing legacy he left, but I know I will face constant soul-searching and a serving of guilt with every grilled sandwich from now until eternity. Thanks for this, Supreme Executive Committee.

  12. What a tough one! But in the end, I have to go with St. Laurence, for living out in the fullest way Jesus' dictum, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." [Luke, 12:34]

  13. I thought today was a slam dunk for Albert Schweitzer, as far as my vote goes. I've admired him all my life, and it does appear that he will advance, so I'll vote for him in the next round.

    But today I had to vote for Laurence, patron of librarians and archivists - how could I not? And how could I not vote for a man who was not only devoted to the poor, but could joke as he was being tortured. (I don't care if it isn't true, laughter is the best medicine, and he must have had a slightly bizarre sense of humor to even inspire the fable!)

  14. Both of today's saints take me back many years to my college days. I went to St. Lawrence University in New York state whose yearbook was appropriately named the Gridiron. And at St. Lawrence, I wrote my freshman research paper on Schweitzer because I was interested in (and played badly) the organ. Sentimentality aside, I voted for Schweitzer as a muscian and for his work in Africa.

  15. Although I was impressed with Lawrence's resume, I voted for Albert. He loomed large in my childhood and youth since my mother was a great admirer. She once told that had she not married she would have been a missionary nurse, and I have no doubt she would have headed to Africa and Schweitzer.

  16. Being reminded of the true treasures of church, I vote for Lawrence, while acknowledging gratefully Albert's dedication to serve those who could be named similarly as treasures. Thanks, LM for a good pairing.

  17. I admire Albert so much, but I voted for Lawrence. I realize that much of his story may be ficticious, but it has nevertheless enriched church literature so much, with its tongue-in-cheek attitude.

  18. A theologian, musician, medical doctor and humanitarian. All these in one amazingman. My vote is with Albert. Go Bertie!

  19. As a deacon and a (non-practicing) librarian, I had to vote for Lawrence. And I love his treasures.

  20. I voted for Albert. I can't help but wonder how much good Lawrence might have done if he had not insisted on dying for his faith, since it doesn't seem his arrest was a sure thing before he spoke up. My slant is mostly to bring people to Christ and helping those in need, so Albert has my vote this time.

  21. Have found the comments very interesting. In presenting the poor as the riches of the church perhaps Lawrence was just trying to divert the Emperor's attention from the objects and the wealth that was beginning to accrue to the early Christian church. He may have been doing the right thing for the wrong reason....

  22. “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” As a lifelong musician and appreciater of felines, as well as having gone to seminary in midlife, then later having gone from parish ministry to hospital chaplaincy, how could I not vote for Albert? As for his "paternalism", I think he was simply trying to get the best care to the most people possible. Starting a medical school was not as urgent as treating patients.

  23. This was really hard. I love St. Laurence for his statement "these are the treasures of the church," even though the way I heard it was that he gathered the old, the crippled, and the poor. I was just adjusting to my wheelchair at the time, so the timing was perfect. The doubts of modern scholarship did, however, leave me feeling free to vote for Albert the organist.

  24. It might be nice to note that Dr Schweitzer was one of the foremost musicians of the 20th century- a player of the organ music of Bach whose interpretations are still noteworthy!

  25. Lawrence is the patron saint of librarians, but (though I am making light of his torture - something he himself did) he should also be the patron saint of barbeque. Pass the Texas Pete!

  26. As a postulant for the vocational diaconant, I feel a great kinship with Laurence and his calling to help the poor and the marginalized and must vote for my brother deacon.

    1. I understand your point of view, and I was really inpressed by Lawrence, but for several years our choir (one of whom I am) has sung Albert Schweitzer's words "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, He speaks the same words, "Follow thou me."/ and sets us to the tasks which he has for our time" Amazing words and very meaningful.

  27. Though Laurence was very faithful and went to his death with full belief I had to choose Albert. He certainly lived a long and busy life and left his mark on this world.

  28. At the moment I can't recall the reason for this, but at the time of my confirmation as an Episcopalian (age 19) I had conceived an antipathy for Schweitzer. Maybe it had to do with the "historical Jesus" book. And after he washed out of Annapolis, my father ended up at football-mad St. Lawrence in upstate NY, where the yearbook was called "The Gridiron." So there's your football link, dear SEC and friends! In addition, the story of his humor and his recognition of the plebs sancta dei as the real treasure of the church, a nicely didactic implant in this legend that owes so much to Daniel's fiery furnace and all sorts of parallels in Greek and Celtic mythology! Lawrence for me, and me for Lawrence!