Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619)
for July 21
Saint Lawrence of Brindisi was born in 1559 in Brindisi, Kingdom of Naples, and died exactly 60 years later, on his birthday in 1619. Born to successful merchants who died while Saint Lawrence was young, he was raised and educated by his uncle at the College of Saint Mark in Venice, Italy. At the age of 16, Saint Lawrence entered the Capuchin Franciscans, subsequently completed studies in both philosophy and theology at the University of Padua, and was ordained at the age of 23. He had a tremendous linguistic capacity and became an accomplished polyglot, speaking, reading, and writing Latin, Italian, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French. His skill in Hebrew prompted Pope Clement VIII to place him in charge of ministering to the Jewish population of Italy. His breadth of knowledge and his vast Hebrew language abilities mistakenly convinced many rabbis that Saint Lawrence had previously been a Jew. At only 31, Saint Lawrence became the superior of his order, and showed exceptional brilliance, empathy and administrative ability. He effectively and rapidly expanded the size of his order, both numerically and geographically. Saint Lawrence later served as a papal nuncio, or ambassador, to foreign nations and worked tirelessly to create peace in the world. A 15-volume omnibus, consisting mostly of sermons, of Saint Lawrence's teachings still exists. Saint Lawrence was canonized in 1881 by Pope Leo XII.
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Saint Lawrence of Brindisi was a virtuous man, but he is perhaps more remembered for his brilliance and vast talent for language. As Christians, we are often justifiably focused solely on how we can improve our souls and become people of integrity. Saint Lawrence reminds us of the importance of education and of spending time learning as much as possible about our faith: its history, its major figures, and its ideas. He also reminds us of the importance that education and knowledge can have in allowing us to be an effective witness to the truth of Christianity. It was Saint Lawrence's knowledge of language and religion that allowed him to so powerfully preach the message of Jesus. Is there time in your day to devote to the intellectual study of your faith?
Think of areas where your intellectual understanding of your faith is weak. Ask God to help you turn this weakness into a strength, so that you can more deliberately represent the totality and truth of your faith as a Christian.