July 22, 2011

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Wisdom of the saints: St. Lawrence of Brindisi

John F. FinkSt. Lawrence of Brindisi, whose feast is on July 21, is another Doctor of the Church. He was a Capuchin Franciscan who lived from 1559 to 1619. He died on his 60th birthday. Brindisi, where he was born, is in southern Italy.

Lawrence combined brilliance and administrative skill. The latter was reflected in his rise in the Capuchin order, eventually becoming minister-general and responsible for its great growth. The former was shown in the 15 volumes of his writings, 11 of which contain his sermons, and also by the fact that he was fluent in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish and French.

Later in life, he served as papal nuncio in Bavaria and a peacemaker for the pope. He died in Lisbon while on a peacemaking journey.

In one of his sermons, Lawrence said that we humans share a spiritual life with the angels of heaven because, like them, we have been formed in the image and likeness of God.

“The bread that is necessary for living this life,” he said, “is the grace of the Holy Spirit and the love of God.” However, he said, grace and love are nothing without faith since without faith it is impossible to please God.

He then told his listeners that “faith is not conceived unless the word of God is preached.” Preaching the word of God, he said, is necessary for the spiritual life, just as the planting of seed is necessary for bodily life.

Alluding to Christ’s parable about the sowing of seed, Lawrence said that the sower of the seed goes out as a herald of justice. On some occasions, he said, the sower was God as when he gave the law to all the people in the desert in the Book of Exodus.

On other occasions, he said, “the herald was an angel of the Lord, as when he accused the people of transgressing the divine law at Bochim, in the place of weeping. At this all the sons of Israel, when they heard the angel’s address, became sorrowful in their hearts, lifted up their voices, and wept bitterly.” This is recounted in the Book of Judges, 2:1-5.

Still another occasion, he said, was when Moses preached the law of the Lord to the whole people on the plains of Moab, as we read in the Book of Deuteronomy. And finally, “Christ came as God and man to preach the word of the Lord, and for the same purpose he sent the Apostles, just as he had sent the prophets before them.”

Preaching, therefore, Lawrence said, “is a duty that is apostolic, angelic, Christian, divine.”

He continued, saying that the word of God is 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.”

He called the word of God “bread and water, but a bread sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, a water better than wine and milk.” †

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