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St Laurence of Brindisi
(entered heaven in 1619)
Sometimes we think we have to do extraordinary things in order to become saints. We read about those monks and hermits who slept sitting on the edges of cliffs and fasted every day till sundown and disciplined their bodies so severely that just reading about it makes us grimace. But there is no single formula for sanctity; if God calls certain souls to imitate Christ’s forty days of fasting in the desert, he also calls certain souls to imitate his thirty years of working-class family life in Nazareth, or his three years of preaching and healing and wandering from town to town. The important thing, my dear niece, is to WANT to imitate Christ and become saints – he will take care of all the rest. We have the words of a doctor of the Church to verify it: when asked by his little sister how someone could become a saint, St Thomas Aquinas answered, “By wanting to.”
Today’s saint is a good example of this. No fireworks accompanied his youthful education in Naples and Venice. No great struggles surrounded his entry into the Franciscan order when he was 16, and nothing miraculous emerged from his years of seminary training at the University of Padua (although he did have a natural gift for languages, learning Greek, Hebrew, German, Bohemian, French and Spanish as he prepared for ordination). Once he was ordained a priest, he began a series of assignments that he carried out with sincere zeal and great faith, obtaining excellent results, but simply by fulfilling the duties of his vocation. First, the Pope assigned him to labor at the conversion of the Jews. Then he was sent to establish a Capuchin community (his branch of the Franciscans was a branch formed in 1525 to return to the primitive observance of St Francis) in Germany to defend against the spread of Lutheranism. Then the Emperor borrowed his services and sent him to convince the German princes to join forces against the invading Turks. When this mission was complete, he was appointed a chaplain to the Christian army and led them to victory by riding in front of the troops armed with a crucifix. The Emperor then sent him to convince King Philip of Spain to join the growing “Catholic League” of European rulers (and he took advantage of the opportunity to start another Capuchin community in Madrid). Three more royal and papal diplomatic missions preceded his attempt to retire into a more recollected style of life, which was speedily interrupted by requests from more princes and kings, asking his aid in resolving their disputes. He obliged, and upon a trip to Portugal, after successfully obtaining an important decision from the king of Spain, he died, a mere 60 years old. Through it all, St Laurence constantly nourished his spirit of prayer and union with God (his Masses were often prolonged because he fell into ecstasies).
An extraordinary life of fidelity to God’s will, yes, but so extraordinary as to be unrepeatable? Hardly. The key, my dear niece, is to confidently and trustfully give yourself to whatever God is asking of you right here and now. And right now he wants nothing more than your dedication to excellence in your summer affairs (job, family life, friendships, prayer commitments…). Follow him one step at a time, and he will lead you Home.
Sincerely, Uncle Eddy