St. Lawrence of Brindisi

Feast Day : July 21

Lawrence was one of the greatest ornaments of the Capuchin Order, and deserved well of both Church and State at the beginning of the 17th century. He was born at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559.

From his tenderest years he evinced rare gifts of nature and grace. In remembrance of Jesus in the Temple at 12 years of age, a custom prevails in Italy at Christmas time permitting boys to preach in public. Lawrence was only six years old when he preached in the cathedral of his native town with such force and point that his audience was deeply affected and many entered upon a more Christian life.

Lawrence entered the Capuchin friary at Verona when he was only 16 years of age. He distinguished himself from the very beginning as a model of perfection. He was punctual at all the community exercises, perfect in his submission to superiors, and full of respect and charity towards his brethren.

When his novitiate was over, he continued to pursue his studies. He was very successful in the study of philosophy and theology, and acquired so thorough a command of foreign languages that he was able to preach in French, Spanish, German, Greek, and even in Hebrew. He ascribed his success not so much to his talents as to the special help he received from Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, whom he honored with tender devotion.

With such accomplishments Father Lawrence started out on a highly fruitful missionary life. At first he visited the various cities in Italy; Venice, Pavia, Verona, Padua, Naples, where his labors were blessed with remarkable success. He was then called to Rome, where he was entrusted with the conversion of the Jews. His thorough knowledge of the Hebrew language won for him the esteem of the rabbis, and his gentle manner led many an Israelite to baptism.

In 1598 Father Lawrence was sent to Germany with eleven other friars to establish Capuchin convents there and to counteract the heresy of Luther, which was at that time gaining a foothold in Austria.

Emperor Rudolph II entrusted to our saint the task of organizing a crusade against the Turks, who were threatening to invade the whole Christian Occident. Father Lawrence, who loved seclusion, was now obliged to visit the principal cities of Germany to negotiate the cause with the princes, and preach it to the people. Due to his wisdom and holiness, which almighty God permitted him to manifest in astonishing ways, his efforts proved successful.

While he was saying holy Mass in Munich in the chapel of the duke of Bavaria, our Lord appeared after the elevation in the form of a resplendent Child, who lovingly caressed the saint. Frequently he was so affected during the celebration of holy Mass that he shed copious tears. Altar linens thus moistened with his tears were later used on the sick, and they were cured as were the faithful by the kerchiefs of St. Paul.

Father Lawrence was made the chief chaplain of the powerful army of Archduke Matthias, which went to Hungary in 1601 to war against the Turks. Although quite crippled with rheumatism, he mounted his horse and, crucifix in hand, rode at the head of the troops to the battlefield. The first sight of the enemy was most discouraging, for their position was so favorable and their number so superior that the most stout-hearted officers despaired of victory. But in the name of the God of battles Father Lawrence promised victory to the Christians and inspired them all with fiery courage. The enemy was completely routed.

Lawrence now returned to Italy where he hoped he might again serve God in his beloved solitude. But the general chapter of the order elected him vicar general. He was obliged in obedience to accept this heavy burden. In this high office he proved a charitable and vigilant pastor to his brethren. When his term expired, the pope again sent him to Germany, this time on an errand of peace, to reconcile the Archduke Matthias with his brother, the emperor. Again he was successful.

After he returned to Italy, the kingdom of Naples, his native land, was in need of his services. This kingdom which at that time belonged to Phillip III of Spain, was governed by a viceroy who cruelly oppressed the people. The only hope lay in presenting the people's grievances to the king through Father Lawrence. The latter sympathized with the people and journeyed to Spain, only to learn that the king was then in Portugal. So on he went to Lisbon, where he pleaded the people's cause and obtained the dismissal of the viceroy.

But this errand of charity cost Lawrence his life. He fell very ill at Lisbon. He knew that his end was drawing near and told his companions so. After devoutly receiving the last sacraments, he fell into ecstasy, during which he went to the sweet embrace of his Lord on the feast of St. Magdalen, July 22, 1619. Pope Pius VI beatified him in 1783, and on December 8, 1881, Pope Leo XIII canonized him. In December 1958 Pope John XXIII signed a decree declaring St. Lawrence to be a Doctor of the Church.



ON THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

1. Consider that St. Lawrence was not swayed by natural inclinations, but steadily followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. By nature he inclined toward a life of seclusion, but amid the circumstances of the time, the Holy Spirit and the injunctions of his superiors called him to engage in active life. The blessing that rested on all his undertakings was proof that the Spirit of God was guiding him. -- Do you permit yourself to be led by the Spirit of God, or do you follow your own inclinations? If you earnestly desire to be guided by the Spirit of God, ask it of Him in prayer. "Your Father from heaven will give the good Spirit to them who ask Him" (Luke 11:13).

2. Consider that we need the Holy Spirit in everything we undertake. He must counsel us both as to what ought to be done and how we should go about it and how we should plan it in order to achieve our goal. The fact the Lawrence was filled with the Spirit of Counsel enabled him to act so promptly and decisively. We are often so irresolute and fickle and permit every new momentary impression to unsettle us because we so rarely ask the Spirit of Counsel to assist us. All men need the Holy Spirit, and for that reason the Wise Man prayed: "Who shall know Thy thought except Thou give wisdom and send Thy Holy Spirit from above to teach the things that please Thee?" (Wisdom 9:17). -- On important occasions say the Veni Creator devoutly.

3. Consider how the Holy Spirit of God guided St. Lawrence in carrying out his undertakings. The Spirit of Strength enabled him to disregard bodily suffering and overcome all hardships. How readily we turn aside from our good purposes because of a few difficulties! "The spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt 26:41). We experience this only too often. And yet, "the Spirit helps also our infirmity" (Rom 8:26). If we are strengthened by Him, we shall also be able to accomplish what the saints accomplished. If weakness and indolence beset you, so that you would like to give up your good resolutions, call upon the Holy Spirit to give you His grace and strengthen your infirmity, to make such sacrifices as St. Lawrence made.




PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

O God, who didst give to St. Lawrence, Thy confessor, the Spirit of Counsel and Strength to enable him to engage in the most difficult undertakings for the honor of Thy name and the salvation of souls, grant, that by the same Spirit, we may perceive what we should do and through his intercession accomplish what we have perceived. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


from: The Franciscan Book Of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press


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