Brotherhood of St Laurence, Fitzroy
9 June 2011
Sitting on a plane back from Sydney yesterday and thinking about coming to see you all, I was prompted to ask myself – who was Saint Laurence?
At first I thought to myself wasn't he a medieval French Saint? Unconvinced, I pondered some more - thus prompting some quick reading upon my return home.
My initial thought was wrong of course – realising that St Laurence was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred in the 3rd Century.
According to conventional theological history, among the treasures entrusted to Laurence for safe-keeping was the Holy Chalice – the cup from which Jesus and the Apostles drank at the Last Supper.
After the death of Sixtus (and I'm indebted to my encyclopedia here) the prefect of Rome demanded that Laurence turn over the riches of the Church.
The tale goes that Laurence asked for a few days to gather together the wealth. He then immediately set about swiftly distributing as much Church property as possible to the poor and needy, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect.
On the third day Laurence presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the Church's treasures, he instead presented the poor, the infirmed, the blind and the crippled, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. With this inspired act of defiance Laurence's martyrdom came.
But of course in the best of ways and traditions the courage and wisdom of St Laurence lives and breathes in your work today.
I know you are not here for a history lesson but I simply wanted to demonstrate from the outset that there's not just a warmness, but something of a good spirited intellectual passion, that charities like the Brotherhood prompt in many among us – politicians included.
As a Member of Parliament and Minister of the Crown, you can vote on Bills in Canberra; give speeches at the Press Club; issue press releases; do interviews and go to Budget lock-ups.
But it's always best for the very soul of a Member of Parliament (and a Minister) to actually visit organisations out in the community – especially in the not-for-profit sector - and get that ever valuable and visceral weekday grip on what you do and who you help – by coming and seeing you here on your turf.