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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Part Fifteen: The Third Franciscan Doctor of the Church, Lawrence of Brindisi

The Capuchin had a brain the size of a planet. Not only did he excel in the usual studies of his time, (1559-1619), but he knew most of the European languages as well as the Semitic languages, making him not only a Biblical scholar, but beloved of the Jews, many of whom he converted.

I remember him as the chaplain of the Imperial Army which fought in the great Battle of Stulweissenburg,  As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: To pit 18,000 men against 80,000 Turks was a daring undertaking and the generals, hesitating to attempt it, appealed to Lorenzo for advice. Holding himself responsible for victory, he communicated to the entire army in a glowing speech the ardour and confidence with which he was himself animated. As his feebleness prevented him from marching, he mounted on horseback and, crucifix in hand, took the lead of the army, which he drew irresistibly after him. Three other Capuchins were also in the ranks of the army. Although the most exposed to danger, Lorenzo was not wounded, which was universally regarded as due to a miraculous protection. The city was finally taken, and the Turks lost 30,000 men. As however they still exceeded in numbers the Christian army, they formed their lines anew, and a few days later another battle was fought. It always the chaplain who was at the head of the army. "Forward!" he cried, showing them the crucifix, "Victory is ours." The Turks were again defeated, and the honour of this double victory was attributed by the general and the entire army to Lorenzo.

But, it is because of his great inner life of contemplation that I include him in this series on perfection and the Doctors of the Church. Again, to be declared a Doctor of the Church, besides great holiness, the saint must have produced writings which the Church can recommend. Again, I quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on line:

The known writings of St. Lorenzo of Brindisi comprise eight volumes of sermons, two didactic treatises on oratory, a commentary on Genesis, another on Ezechiel, and three volumes of religious polemics. Most of his sermons are written in Italian, the other works being in Latin. The three volumes of controversies have notes in Greek and Hebrew.

I am also amazed at the energies of such great saints in producing so many works while preaching, teaching, doing missionary work, organizing and running an order and in Lawrence's case, fighting battles.

In the next post, I shall highlight some of his writings.