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Ordinary Time: July 21st

Optional Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, priest and doctor


July 21, 2010 (Readings on USCCB website)


Lord, for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls you gave Lawrence of Brindisi courage and right judgment. By his prayers help us to know what we should do and give us the courage to do it. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


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Old Calendar: St. Praxedes, virgin

St. Lawrence, the first Capuchin Franciscan to be honored as a Doctor, was born in 1559 at Brindisi, a town located on the Adriatic coast of the heel of Italy. Educated from his youth by the Conventual Franciscan Friars, he acquired great facility in languages and is considered the greatest linguist among the Doctors of the Church. His fields of labor were many: army chaplain, diplomat, leader of the Counter-Reformation in Austria and Bohemia, teacher of Sacred Scripture, exegete and mariologist. St. Lawrence offers priests a wonderful model for their studies and preaching. He was canonized in 1881 by Leo XIII.

Before the reform of the General Roman Calendar today was the feast of St. Praxedes, whose history is rather obscure. A sixth century account makes her a sister of St. Pudentiana and a daughter of the senator Pudens, which would place her life around the origin of the Church in Rome.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi
His name was Julius Caesar, and he was born at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins and was given the name Lawrence. Finishing his studies at the University of Padua, he showed a flair for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible.

While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination startled the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. Sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims when they were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to give solidarity to the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.

His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having earned "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."

In 1619, he undertook a journey to see King Philip III of Spain on behalf of the oppressed people of Naples who were ruled by a tyrannical governor. Lawrence reached Lisbon where the king was residing, and it was there that his last illness overtook him. His body was carried back to Spain and buried in the church of the Poor Clares at Villafranca del Bierzo.

Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.

Excerpted from The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens

Things to Do:

St. Praxedes
A virgin saint from the earliest Christian times who placed her goods and her services at the disposal of the Church! The life of this saint, like that of most other early Christian saints, remains concealed in the obscurities of legend.

Praxedes, it is said, was the sister of St. Pudentiana; she was devoted to the practice of works of mercy, particularly towards martyrs, during the reign of Emperor Antoninus (138-161). "Some she kept in hiding in her house, others she encouraged to profess the faith heroically, and the dead she buried. To those languishing in prison she brought needed assistance. When she no longer could endure the sight of the cruel oppression to which Christians were subjected, she implored the Lord to take her from this vale of tears if such were His holy will. It was. On July 21 the Lord called and gave her heaven as the reward for her piety and love of neighbor. Her body was placed in the catacomb of Priscilla in the tomb of her father Pudens and her sister Pudentiana".

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Single laywomen.

Symbols: Sponge and cup or basin; two open purses; bunch of leaves or herbs.

Things to Do:

  • No matter how high a standard of living may prevail, there always remain abundant opportunities for practicing the corporal works of mercy. It is not the Christian approach to leave the physical needs of others, whether in your own community or in a distant country, to state agencies. When did I last with my own hands "clothe the naked....feed the hungry....harbor the harborless"?