VATICAN CITY, 23 MAR 2011 (VIS) – In his general audience this morning, Benedict XVI dedicated his catechesis to St. Lawrence of Brindisi (born Giulio Cesare Rossi, 1559-1619), a Doctor of the Church.
The saint, who lost his father at the age of seven, was entrusted by his mother to the care of the Friars Minor Conventuals. He subsequently entered the Order of Capuchins and was ordained a priest in 1582. He acquired a profound knowledge of ancient and modern languages, thanks to which “he was able to undertake an intense apostolate among various categories of people“, the Pope explained. He was also an effective preacher well versed not only in the Bible but also in rabbinic literature, which he knew so well “that rabbis themselves were amazed and showed him esteem and respect”.
As a theologian and expert in Sacred Scripture and the Church Fathers, Lawrence of Brindisi was an exemplary teacher of Catholic doctrine among those Christians who, especially in Germany, had adhered to the Reformation. “With his clear and tranquil explanations he demonstrated the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of faith called into question by Martin Luther, among them the primacy of St. Peter and his Successors, the divine origin of the episcopate, justification as interior transformation of man, and the necessity of good works for salvation. The success enjoyed by St. Lawrence helps us to understand that even today, as the hope-filled journey of ecumenical dialogue continues, the reference to Sacred Scripture, read in the Tradition of the Church, is an indispensable element of fundamental importance”.
“Even the lowliest members of the faithful who did not possess vast culture drew advantage from the convincing words of St. Lawrence, who addressed the humble in order to call everyone to live a life coherent with the faith they professed”, said the Holy Father. “This was a great merit of the Capuchins and of the other religious orders which, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, contributed to the renewal of Christian life. … Even today, the new evangelisation needs well-trained, zealous and courageous apostles, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel may prevail over the cultural trends of ethical relativism and religious indifference, transforming the various ways people think and act in an authentic Christian humanism”.
Lawrence was a professor of theology, master of novices, minister provincial and minister general of the Capuchin Order, but amidst all these tasks “he also cultivated an exceptionally active spiritual life”, the Pope said. In this context he noted how all priests “can avoid the danger of activism – that is, of acting while forgetting the profound motivations of their ministry – only if they pay heed to their own inner lives”.
The Holy Father then turned his attention to another aspect of the saint’s activities: his work in favour of peace. “Supreme Pontiffs and Catholic princes repeatedly entrusted him with important diplomatic missions to placate controversies and favour harmony between European States, which at the time were threatened by the Ottoman Empire. Today, as in St. Lawrence’s time, the world has great need of peace, it needs peace-loving and peace-building men and women. Everyone who believes in God must always be a source of peace and work for peace”, he said.
Lawrence of Brindisi was canonised in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Blessed John XXIII in 1959 in recognition of his many works of biblical exegesis and Mariology. In his writings, Lawrence “also highlighted the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers”, the Pope said.
“St. Lawrence of Brindisi”, he concluded, “teaches us to love Sacred Scripture, to become increasingly familiar with it, daily to cultivate our relationship with the Lord in prayer, so that our every action, our every activity, finds its beginning and its fulfilment in Him”.
AG/ VIS 20110323 (650)
Published by VIS – Holy See Press Office – Wednesday, March 23, 2011