Saint Lorenza (Lawrence) da Brindisi – Capuchin priest and Doctor of the Church – was born Giulio Cesare Russo on July 22, 1559 to Guglielmo Russo and Elisabetta Masella. We have little knowledge of his childhood. He was one of the top students in his school, but lost both his parents during his youth. He moved to Venice to live with his uncle who was a priest. Thanks to his uncle’s help Giulio Cesare could develop his intellectual, cultural and spiritual skills. It was in the beautiful city of Venice wherein Giulio Cesare came into contact with the Capuchins. The later were a source of great inspiration for the young man due to their simplicity in the friary close to the little church of Our Lady of the Angles on the island of Giudecca.
Captivated by their austerity and poverty of life Giulio felt moved by the Spirit to ask to join them. It was February 19, 1575 when the Capuchins admitted him. He was given the name of Brother Lorenzo. After making his religious profession on 24 March 1576 he studied philosophy in Padua and theology in Venice, leaving a deep impression on those around him due to his intellectual skills and craving for knowledge. His preferred area of study was the Bible, and Fra Lorenzo fully immersed himself in the study of biblical languages. His Franciscan spiritually was deeply embedded within the Bonaventurian school, which highlighted the fervour of the will as well as the ascent of the spirit.
Following his priestly ordination from none other than the Patriarch of Venice of the time, Giovanni Trevisan, and Father Lorenzo’s soon became renowned for his preaching, beginning with his diaconate, when he had the grace and opportunity to preach the whole Lent in the Venetian Church of San Giovanni Nuovo. As a priest he travelled all over Italy, deeply devoted to the proclamation of the Word of God. Father Lorenzo was graced from God by his physical, intellectual and spiritual talents all of which made him a very effective speaker. Profoundly trained in his Franciscan School his preaching heavily rested on the Bible which he explained clearly and rich articulation. Such a powerful preaching left the greatest results. We will never know how many people were won over to Christ, both Christians and non-Christians, including many of the Jewish faith.