This Thursday, 21st July, is the (optional) Memorial of St. Laurence of Brindisi (1559 – 1619). Lawrence had an outstanding gift for languages. In addition to a thorough knowledge of his native Italian, he had complete reading and speaking ability in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French. He was born on 22nd July 1559, and died exactly 60 years later on this, his birthday in 1619. His parents William and Elizabeth Russo gave him the name of Julius Caesar, Caesare in Italian. After the early death of his parents, he was educated by his uncle at the College of St. Mark in Venice. When he was 16, he entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order in Venice and received the name of Laurence. He completed his studies of philosophy and theology at the University of Padua and was ordained a priest at 23. With his facility for languages Lawrence was able to study the Bible in its original texts. He had a great sensitivity to the needs of people and at the young age of 31 was elected major superior of the Capuchin Franciscan province of Tuscany. He had the combination of brilliance, human compassion, and administrative skill needed to carry out his duties. In rapid succession he was promoted by his fellow Capuchins and was elected minister general of the Capuchins in 1602. In this position he was responsible for great growth and geographical expansion of the Order. Laurence was appointed papal emissary and peacemaker, a job which took him to a number of foreign countries. An effort to achieve peace in his native kingdom of Naples took him on a journey to Lisbon to visit the king of Spain. Serious illness in Lisbon took his life in 1619. In 1956, the Capuchins completed a 15-volume edition of Lawrence’s writings. Eleven of these 15 contain his sermons, each of which relies chiefly on scriptural quotations to illustrate his teaching.