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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: October 2, 2021
By Kelli Nugent
St. Edward Church, Texarkana
The devout parents of St. Lawrence of Brindisi had him baptized Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar). One may wonder what plans Guglielmo Rossi and Elizabetta Musella had for their son with such a name. But young Julius’ parents died when he was young. His uncle raised him in Venice, and sent him to school with the Conventual Franciscan Friars. However, he was drawn to another part of the family of Francis and entered the Capuchins at 16 years old, receiving the name Lawrence.
Brother Lawrence was sent to Padua to study philosophy and theology. A brilliant student, who knew French, German, Latin, Spanish, Greek and Hebrew, was ordained to the priesthood at 23. Lawrence’s facility for languages enabled him to study the Scriptures in their original form. So deeply imbued in the Scriptures, it seemed as if he had the entire Bible memorized. Upon Father Lawrence’s ordination, his preaching ability did not take long to become widely known. He preached in Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, Bohemia, Spain and Portugal.
He was a man perfectly equipped by God for all the tasks to which he was called. Lawrence engaged in the crisis of his time, the Protestant Reformation. He was a leading voice of the Catholic Counter- Reformation, able to expound the truths of the Catholic faith with great strength and lucidity. He did not shy away from encounters with those teaching falsely but actively engaged them. So excellent and so effective was his teaching that, while in Prague, the Protestants tried unsuccessfully to have Emperor Rudolf II expel Lawrence from the realm.
He brought heretics to abjure false doctrines and confuted the Jews. He was conspicuous for all the virtues in a heroic degree as well as for the gifts of counsel and prudence.
Lawrence is also credited with rousing the hearts and fervor of the Christian army in a decisive battle at Stuhlwissenburg when 18,000 Christians fought and defeated 80,000 Turks, both by his words and his courage, leading the army into battle with only his crucifix and his faith for protection. At 31, he was elected major superior for the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany. In later years he was chosen minister general of the entire order. Yet more gifts of administration, human compassion and brilliance enabled him to fulfill his calling well.
Father Lawrence died July 22, 1619, on his 60th birthday while on one of many diplomatic or peacemaking missions. In 1965, the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of his writings. In 1959, Pope John XXIII declared him a doctor of the Church. The Capuchin breviary, in part, remembers him this way: “Ordained a priest, he devoted himself entirely to the salvation of souls. He did not spare labors, vigils, not life itself, which was in danger more than once so that he could win all to Christ. He entered the courts of princes and gatherings of Jews and heretics, and he traversed almost all Europe showing the people the way of eternal salvation. He converted innumerable sinners and some very wicked women; he brought heretics to abjure false doctrines and confuted the Jews. He was conspicuous for all the virtues in a heroic degree as well as for the gifts of counsel and prudence.” St. Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us!
Kelli Nugent is director of faith formation at St. Edward Church in Texarkana. She has a bachelor’s degree in theology from St. Gregory University in Shawnee, Okla.