Feast Day : July 21
Lawrence of Brindisi was born Julius Caesar de Rossi in Brindisi, Italy, in 1559. From an early age he was precocious in his studies, and exhibited a natural gift for oratory. His father died when he was 12, and he went to Venice to study with the clerics of St. Mark’s. In 1575 he joined the Capuchin Friars Minor, a strict offshoot of the Franciscans, and took the name of Brother Lawrence. He studied at the University of Padua. He was a quick study in foreign languages and learned the principal ones of Europe as well as Semitic ones. He was reputed to know the entire original text of the Bible. Lawrence preached and evangelized throughout Europe. His skill and gifts enabled him to hold all the offices of his order. From 1596 to 1602 he lived in Rome and evangelized the Jews at the behest of Pope Clement VIII (r. 1592–1605). He traveled about evangelizing Jews, and establishing houses of his order. He was popular because of his speaking ability and his miracles. In 1601, while establishing a house in Prague, Lawrence was made chaplain of Emperor Rudolf II’s army, which was fighting the Turks. Lawrence galvanized the troops with inspiring speeches and even led the army in spite of his feebleness, mounted on horseback and crucifix in hand. Miraculously he was never wounded. In 1605 Lawrence was sent to evangelize Germany, where he served as papal nuncio to the court of Bavaria and became involved in the politics that preceded the Thirty Years’ War. In 1618 he retired to a monastery in Caserta, Italy, but was recalled and sent on a mission to Spain to advise King Philip III. The journey exhausted him, and he never returned home. He died in Lisbon on July 22, 1619. Lawrence’s writings include hundreds of sermons, commentaries on books of the Bible (he is especially noted for his commentary on Genesis), various treatises and religious polemics.