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PATRON OF ALL CAPUCHIN STUDENTS

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Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

If you go to Rome you may perhaps see the International College of our Capuchin Order, named after St. Lawrence of Brindisi who is the patron saint of all Capuchin students. Preacher, scholar, linguist, diplomat, minister to the sick, and devout friar - there is surely something in him which every student can try to emulate.

Born in Italy in 1559 to a well-to-do Venetian family, he was educated by the Conventual branch of the Franciscan Order and then' aged 16, entered the Capuchin novitiate. As he continued his studies at the University of Padua, it soon became evident that he was an exceptionally talented student. He was a brilliant theological scholar, gaining a wide knowledge of the scriptures, and became proficient in six languages including Greek and Hebrew, an aptitude which later helped him to travel widely on a variety of missions. He took no pride in his intellectual gifts but attributed his talents to Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, to whom he had a particular devotion.

After his ordination, Lawrence preached in several towns in the north of Italy, touching the hearts of simple people. Wherever he preached work would stop and farmers would come in from the fields to listen to him.

In 1596 he was called to Rome and appointed Definitor General of the Capuchin Order. It was then that the Pope asked him to work for the conversion of Jews in the city. His knowledge of Hebrew, along with his sincere piety, enabled him to bring many Jews to the Catholic faith. His next assignment took him to Protestant Germany as one 12 friars, including Benedict of Urbino, who were sent to establish a Capuchin presence there. The friars carried out valuable work, nursing plague victims, opening three new friaries, and converting many Lutherans.

Another preaching mission took Lawrence to central Europe, and a new problem: an invasion of Turkish troops had to be resisted by force. It was Lawrence who motivated the German princes, encouraging them to raise an army to combat the Muslim threat. Lawrence himself was appointed chaplain to the Christian troops and he led them into battle, armed with a crucifix which is the priceless treasure of every future General of the Order during his term of office.

Lawrence returned to Italy and was elected Minister General of the Order for three years. He carried out his duties diligently, visiting all the provinces on foot, never failing to take part in daily Mass and Office.

In 1619 Lawrence was again called from his friary to undertake a diplomatic mission. The people of Naples were complaining of harsh treatment from their Spanish governor and he travelled to put their grievances before King Philip III of Spain: the mission was successful, and the king agreed to appoint a new governor. But worn out with his work and his travels, he died in Lisbon on 22 July 1619, his sixtieth birthday.

Lawrence's life is the story of a man always on the move, willing to go wherever he was sent to serve others in whatever way he could, travelling thousands of miles on foot. Very few people have the ability or stamina to pursue several careers simultaneously as Lawrence did but there is one respect in which we can follow him closely … his great love for the Mass and for Our Lady. Let us ask Saint Lawrence to help us increase our devotion to prayer and to make us always ready to do God's will, wherever it may lead us.