SAINT LAWRENCE of BRINDISI (1559-1619), priest and Doctor of the Church – Patron saint of Brindisi, Italy
Today, the Church honors Saint Lawrence (Lorenzo) of Brindisi, the first Capuchin Franciscan to be honored with the title “Doctor of the Church”.
He was born on July 22, 1559, to William and Elizabeth Russo, devout Catholics, who gave him the name Julius Caesar at birth. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of Saint Mark in Venice.
Julius gave early evidence of a religious vocation; and when he was just sixteen year old he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Lorenzo (Lawrence). He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua, showing a flair for languages – mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French – and showed an extraordinary knowledge of the texts of the Bible. He was ordained a priest in 1582 at the age of twenty-three.
At the request of Pope Clement VIII, he spent much of his time preaching to the Jews in Italy. So proficient was his knowledge of Hebrew that the rabbis felt sure he was a Jew who had become a Christian. At the same time, he was commissioned to establish houses of his Order in Germany and Austria.
In 1601, Friar Lorenzo was appointed chaplain of the army of the Holy Roman Empire, and rallied the German princes to fight a superior Turkish force (18,000 men against 80,000 Turks). After being asked, he personally led the army into battle carrying no other weapon than a crucifix; the Turks were completely defeated.
Friar Lorenzo’s sensitivity to the needs of people – a character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar – began to reveal itself. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties, and was an effective and forceful preacher in any of the several languages in which he was proficient.
As a result, he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected Minister General of the Capuchin Order in 1602, which he held until 1605. In this position, he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order.
He was later appointed papal emissary, working at the role of peacemaker; and, in an effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples, Friar Lorenzo journeyed to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life on July 22, 1619, dying exactly sixty years from the day he was born.
He was canonized a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. In 1956, the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of his writings. Eleven of these 15 volumes contain his sermons, each of which relies chiefly on scriptural quotations to illustrate his teaching. Pope St. John XXIII declared Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a “Doctor of the Church” in 1959.
We commemorate his feastday on July 21.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Lawrence of Brindisi)
“Lord, for the glory of Your Name and the salvation of souls, You gave Lawrence of Brindisi courage and right judgment. By his prayers, help us to know what we should do and give us the courage to do it.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”