This year, I’ve decided to adopt a saint for each month. I didn’t write about my January saint (St Dorothea of Montau in case you were wondering) because January is way too early to get my act together. But let’s just move along, shall we?
St Lawrence, Priest and Diplomat
February’s saint is… St Lawrence of Brindisi!!
St Lawrence of Brindisi (1559 — 1619) was a Capuchin Franciscan priest, diplomat, linguist, theologian and preacher. Born Guilo Cesare Russo in Brindisi, Southern Italy, he entered religious life with the Capuchins and took the name Lorenzo.
St Lawrence was well-known for his learning and piety. He was an excellent preacher and an exceptional linguist, speaking most European languages as well as ancient Greek and Hebrew. (His Hebrew was so good that the rabbis of Rome were convinced that the saint was a secret Jewish convert.) Because of this, he spent his life zig-zagging across Europe on different diplomatic and pastoral missions.
For example, he founded new Capuchin houses in Vienna and Prague, preached sermons in Madrid and Naples, acted as the papal nuncio in Munich, ran the Capuchin Order as Vicar-General from Rome, lead the Catholic forces (crucifix in hand) to fight the invading Turks in Hungary, and died in Lisbon on yet another diplomatic mission. Seriously, the saint got around.
What sets St Lawrence apart was, among other things, his deep love for Scripture. Pope Benedict XVI said that,
The whole of his activity was inspired by great love for Sacred Scripture, which he knew thoroughly and by heart, and by the conviction that listening to and the reception of the word of God produces an inner transformation that leads us to holiness. (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 23 March 2011)
St Lawrence, Apostolic Doctor
In 1959, St Lawrence was declared a Doctor of the Church, making him the thirteenth doctor (or the one who’ll come after Peter Capaldi for you Whovians.)
St Lawrence is called the Apostolic Doctor because, like the Apostles (literally, those sent in Greek) he willingly went wherever he was sent to proclaim the Gospel, to gently correct error, and to make peace among brothers.
This is what St Lawrence himself has to say about the apostolic duty of preaching:
Preaching therefore, is a duty that is apostolic, angelic, Christian, divine. The word of God is replete with manifold blessings, since it is, so to speak, a treasure of all goods. It is the source of faith, hope, charity, all virtues, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all the beatitudes of the Gospel, all good works, all the rewards of life, all the glory of paradise: Welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. (James 1:21)
For the word of God is a light to the mind and a fire to the will. It enables man to know God and to love him. And for the interior man who lives by the Spirit of God, through grace, it is bread and water, but a bread sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, a water better than wine and milk. For the soul it is a spiritual treasure of merits yielding an abundance of gold and precious stones. Against the hardness of a heart that persists in wrongdoing, it acts as a hammer. Against the world, the flesh and the devil it serves as a sword that destroys all sin.
St Lawrence, Lover of Scripture
I love that.
This February, as I begin my university ministry work again, I want the grace to trust in the power of the word of God.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
But how often do I actually trust God’s word to speak for itself? Do I think the word of God needs props and sparkly things to speak to this generation? Do I encourage my students to love the Scriptures and to expect to find Christ there? I don’t just want to believe that the Scriptures are the word of God, I want to act like they are.
The word of God in the Scriptures is living and active. It is profitable for teaching, correcting, and growing in holiness. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) When I don’t trust God’s word to be God’s word, I end up relying on myself, trying to find the “appropriate” words for any given occasion. This is usually a disaster. (No, really Laura? Shocking!)
My calling isn’t to make the word of God palatable or acceptable to the passing whims of this milieu; it’s simply to let go of my ego and give God the reins.
Let God be God and let His word speak powerfully.
Only He can convert our hearts.
St Lawrence of Brindisi, pray for us!