Feast Day: July 21st | Patron of his hometown, Brindisi, Italy | Often pictured in Capuchin habit, writing with a quill, holding the baby Jesus, or carrying a crucifix.
Lawrence is one of those hard saints to emulate. Born to devout parents, he grew up an intelligent and pious boy and by the age of 16 entered the Capuchin order and quickly mastered not only those studies but he also easily became fluent in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French. While still a deacon his preaching was so moving that he was asked to travel all over Italy preaching in the largest and most popular cities in the country, something he would continue to do after he was ordained a priest at the young age of 23. It was said that he had memorized the entire bible, in its original language, and so over the course of his life he would be called to preach all over Europe, bringing countless people back to the true faith by his clarity, depth of scriptural and patristic insight, and capacity to relate his sermons to the varied congregations he addressed. Over the following decades, he would hold many of the highest positions in the Capuchin order and on one famous occasion also rode out in front of Christian armies defending Hungary against a Turkish invasion. He carried only a crucifix, but came away without a scratch, and the Christian armies faced 4-to-1 odds against them, but came away with the victory.
How can you or I emulate that?! Where in our lives do the graces – of fluency in language, ecstasy at Mass, defense amidst battles, eloquence and knowledge and convincing words … – where in my life would those graces even go? I don’t even ask for such tremendous gifts, sticking with just requesting the graces needed for my daily duties. “Give me this day my daily bread”: the basic grace of being patient, attentive, generous, and faithful … of perseverance in prayer, of trust in God, of love of neighbor. I struggle to carry my daily cross enough even without 80,000 Turks bearing down on me. I struggle to communicate the Gospel to one person in spiritual direction, much less to crowds who don’t want to hear it. I struggle to stay prayerful when saying Mass for the nuns, ecstasy and sublime contemplation seem unlikely.
When getting to know a great saint like Lawrence, we are faced with a difficult situation: we must both accept that Lawrence was given graces that we have not, but at the same time we must not give up the call that God speaks to us to live a life of heroic sanctity. How can we stay both humble, and bold? Both content/trusting, and magnanimous? How is it every “enough” to spend my morning on email and laundry when Lawrence was reading the Old Testament in Hebrew and leading armies into battle?! May I point out a simple, but transformative, truth? Notice that every one of those wondrous graces in Lawrence’s life was so that he could love. Being a saint is easy, it only requires love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.” “What you did for the least of my brethren, you did for Me.” “Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
Fr. Dominic Rankin struggles to be a saint just like everybody else. He faces the same attack and same lie that we all do: “you aren’t smart enough … holy enough … productive enough … courageous enough … trusting enough … humble enough … loving enough … to be a saint.” Thing is, the lie is easily denounced: sanctity doesn’t depend on me, it depends on Jesus. And He is enough for me to become a saint.