St Lawrence of
At first glance perhaps the most remarkable quality of Lawrence of
Brindisi is his outstanding gift of languages. In addition to a thorough knowledge of his native
Italian, he had complete reading and speaking ability in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian,
Spanish and French.
He was born on July 22, 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on his birthday
in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in
Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St.
Mark in Venice.
When he was just 16 he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and
received the name of Lawrence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University
of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23.
With his facility for languages he was able to
study the Bible in its original texts. At the request of Pope Clement VIII, he spent much time
preaching to the Jews in Italy. So excellent was his knowledge of Hebrew, the rabbis felt sure he
was a Jew who had become a Christian.
In 1956 the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of
his writings. Eleven of these 15 contain his sermons, each of which relies chiefly on scriptural
quotations to illustrate his teaching.
Lawrence´s sensitivity to the needs of people—a
character trait perhaps unexpected in such a talented scholar—began to surface. He was elected major
superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany at the age of 31. He had the combination of
brilliance, human compassion and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid
succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins
in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the
Lawrence was appointed papal emissary and peacemaker, a job which took him to a number
of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a
journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619.
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