Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 24, 2019.


What are the qualities of a good doctor? Is it talent alone? Medical training? Ability to communicate? Or a combination of these skills plus others?

Medicine is a broad field and so is the term doctor. I always have been interested in the process of healing, treating, and combating infirmities. I even contemplated getting thought about pursuing a science degree in college! Lately, my wife and I have been re-watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning of the series. While I don’t condone the morality of many of the characters, I do admire their strong desire to best care for their patients.

spiritual surgeons

Humanity Needs Healing

Humanity is a broken race in need of healing. People suffer from physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses. Outwardly and historically, physical ailments have been most obvious and most attention focused to resolve. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I am pleased with the efforts made in the 21st century to spread more awareness of mental illnesses. What has definitely fallen by the wayside is spiritual health.

Spiritual Doctors Help Lead to the Divine Physician

Side effects from failings to treat spiritual health include the following: selfishness, greed, envy, laziness, lust, despair, and self-doubt to just name a few. We need spiritual healing just as much, actually more so than other kinds of healing. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 386,

Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

The false philosophy of materialism rejects the idea that humanity is in need of spiritual healing. This is a dangerous and slippery slope to follow. While Jesus is the Ultimate Divine Physician, God sometimes raises up particular saints whose writings provide prescriptions to remedy sin. These individuals are known as the Doctors of the Church. This third installment of Spiritual Surgeons will focus on probably one of the least known Doctors—St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

St. Lawrence of Brindisi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Capuchin Franciscan’s ability to promote peace amidst strife, Scriptural shrewdness, and voluminous insight on the Virgin Mary rightly place him among the greatest spiritual specialists.

Deft Diplomat

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his March 23rd, 2011 General Audience, “Thanks to his mastery of so many languages, Lawrence was able to carry out a busy apostolate among the different categories of people.” Living during the 16th century, the Franciscan priest was a key figure in refuting the heresies of the Reformation. Benedict XVI described the diplomacy of Lawrence as effective against the Protestants arguments. “With his calm, clear exposition he demonstrated the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of faith disputed by Martin Luther.

Catholic Diplomacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with the German pope’s accolades, St. Lawrence maintained the peace promoted by his predecessor and spiritual father—St. Francis of Assisi. In his First Sermon for the Feast of St. Francis St. Lawrence declared, “‘God is wonderful in his saints’ for if the works of nature are marvelous much more marvelous are the works of grace.” At select points in history God raises up saints to combat the errors of the time. Just as St. Francis was raised to fight the corruption of the 12th century, St. Lawrence fought charitably against the errors of the Protestant reformation.

Bible Brilliance

Another gift the Holy Spirit granted St. Lawrence was an ability to interpret Scripture both skillful and faithfully.

studying the bible

 

 

 

 

The Apostolic Doctor’s Three Sermons for the Feast of St Francis displays his penchant for reading and applying the Bible. He  makes frequent references to Old Testament figures such as Jonathan, Jacob, Daniel, Mordecai, and Moses to describe how God clothes a “lesser” figure with grace. Lawrence wrote in his First Sermon, “As the servant is sometimes dressed in nobler clothes than the Lord, so it will be permissible for me to say that Francis is the more wonderful Crucified than Christ, as God has so arranged for His greater glory.” Wow! His high praise of Francis definitely resonates with the biblical tradition that God selects the imperfect to testify to Divine Love and Truth.

Master of Mariology

Before researching this post, I honestly knew very little about St. Lawrence of Brindisi. As impressive as his diplomacy and academic knowledge are what impressed me most about the Apostolic Doctor is his mastery on the subject of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Capuchin saint as “a highly qualified Mariologist” (March 23rd, 2011 General Audience).

According to Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M. Cap, S.T.D. in St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Apostolic Doctor, “Specialists in Mariology declare that the sixty-two sermons of Lawrence’s Mariaele form a complete summa of this matter, prominent in Marian literature not only at his time, but ever since!” (emphasis mine).

Mary Clothed with the Sun

 

 

 

 

 

A reflection on the Annunciation demonstrates Lawrence’s masterful understanding of the significance of Mary. Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you.’ This is a new form of greeting, never heard by another, never encountered before,” Lawrence writes. What makes the Capuchin priest exemplary in his study of Mary is the combination of simplicity and unwavering truth.  In his First Sermon in the Mariale, Lawrence reflecting on Revelation 12 tells us,

Moreover, for this has She been clothed with the Sun, that we might know, that just as the Sun, one though it be, nevertheless illumines each and every man and warms with its heat as if it had been founded by God for each individual man, for there is not one who can hide himself from its heat;94in the same manner the Virgin Theotokos is the Mother of each and everyone, thus common to all as the very own Mother of each.

 Here in this sermon Lawrence seamlessly discusses all four major doctrines pertaining to Mary: Her Virginity, Motherhood, Assumption, and Excellent Virtue (Immaculate Conception). Never have I read such a clear, consistent, and intriguing homily on Mary.

Although St. Lawrence of Brindisi is not a household name like an Augustine or Therese of Liseux, his sundry of vocations throughout his life as a diplomat, teacher, preacher, and scholar are second to none!

 Collect Prayer from Feast Day for St. Lawrence of Brindisi

O God, who for the glory of your name and the salvation of souls bestowed on the Priest Saint Lawrence of Brindisi a spirit of counsel and fortitude, grant, we pray, that in the same spirit, we may know what must be done and, through his intercession, bring it to completion. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Related Resources

http://www.franciscan-archive.org/laurentius/lau01005.html

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110323.html

https://napcc.net/images/uploads/documents/Threesermons.pdf

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How My Role Model Stood Up Against Nazism


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 29, 2017.


A fruit of my consecration to Jesus through Mary in the days leading up to the centenary anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima was reflecting on the heroic life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe by the hands of Nazi Germany. Aside from St. Athanasius and St. John Paul II, I do not think there is another saint that modeled love and courage to speak the truth with such tenacity!

From an early age, Maximilian promoted devotion to Mary and sought to bring others of God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Ordained in 1918, he continued to work promoting Mary throughout Poland. I believe Divine Providence strategically placed Maximilian in Poland to be a light to the destitute because this nation eventually became an epicenter for Nazi domination.

st-maximilian-kolbe-icon-389.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During May 1941, Maximilian was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Polish priest died on August 14th, 1941. Despite his short stay, the heroism of St. Maximilian lives on and impacted his fellow inmates and generations to this day. I want to highlight three essential points about Maximilian’s life that compelled me turn to him as a role model.

Savior

Maximilian only cared about others. He refused to sign German documents that would have provided protections to avoid sending him to the concentration camps. He heroically volunteered to take the place of a man, with a large family, who was sentenced to death. Such selfless love is powerful. Maximilian allowed the Holy Spirit to be so present inside him that he reflected the love of Christ perfectly and died a horrific death like Jesus to save others!

concentration camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacrifice of the Mass

St. Maximilian once said, “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.” The Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium echoes this point as well by calling the Eucharistic sacrifice the “source and summit” of the Catholic life (no. 5).

As a priest, Maximilian lived this reality and he took it to a new level in the concentration camps as well. He celebrated Mass daily and fellow prisoners even attested the Polish priest took crumbs of wheat bread to gather the substance needed to perform the sacrifice of the Mass when times became really desolate in his cell.

Divine Insight

Father Kolbe’s theology clarified dogmatic proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in the 19th century about Mary being sinless. Mary’s apparition at Lourdes revealed to Bernadette that she is the Immaculate Conception.

Kolbe expanded on this revelation by making a distinction between the created Immaculate Conception [Mary] versus the uncreated Immaculate Conception [the Holy Spirit]. Maximilian clarified the Catholic understanding of Mary for me personally with this distinction. It is important to realize that Mary is a part of CREATION and it not to be worshipped. I think St. Maximilian provided a good example to help me understand how we honor the Mother of God!

our_lady_of_the_blessed_sacrament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Role models are not merely people that exist in a state of earthly life today. We may all look to the Catholic saints as good examples to mirror when it comes to combating our own selfish wills and desires. St. Maximilian stood up against the malevolent force of Nazism by proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.

In a world of tumult and lack of stability clarity has never been more important. St. Maximilian once said, “No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.” Let us seek truth always!

Related Links

Maximilian Kolbe- Saint and Martyr

The Writings of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe

Why the Immaculate Conception is Important

Reconciling Mary as Mediator with 1 Timothy 2:5

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Fear of the Lord: A Word Study from Proverbs

The Fear of the Lord

By: William Hemsworth

The phrase to be studied is “fear of the Lord” and the text has much meaning. Fopurposes of this exercise the study is limited to the first two chapters of the book of Proverbs. The usage of this phrase occurs in Proverbs 1:7, 1:29, and 2:5. 

The Importance of Repetition

The first word in the phrase “fear” is the Hebrew word yir’ah, or יִרְאָה. This term is used forty-five times in the Old Testament. Its root word is the adjective yare’, or יָרֵא, which is used sixty-four times in the Hebrew Bible[1].

The second word in in the phrase, which makes up “of the Lord” is the Hebrew word Yĕhovah, which in Hebrew is יְ֭הוָה. As one can imagine this word is used several times. In fact, it is used an astounding 6,519 times[2]. Though it is the name of the Lord, its root word is hayah, or הָיָה in Hebrew.

The first word yir’ah, or יִרְאָה, is used three times in the first two chapters of Proverbs in 1:7, 1:29, and 2:5. The second word Yĕhovah, or יְ֭הוָה in Hebrew, is used a total of four times in the first two chapter Proverbs in 1:7, 1:29, 2:5, and 2:6.

The English word used for the word yir’ah are fear, exceedingly, dreadful, fearfulness, or reverence[3]. Many sources available, such as Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway agree, but Strong’s also added reverence. When one speaks of the fear of the Lord it is in reverence, so it was good to see it listed.

The second word Yĕhovah, or יְ֭הוָה is translated as Lord, God, and Jehovah[4]. It is the proper known for the God of Israel, and the translations appear to be universally agreed upon.

Context Clues

The context of the passages is crucial to word placement in the passages mentioned. The first two chapters of Proverbs deal with the call of wisdom and the treasure of wisdom. The fear of the Lord in the beginning of understanding (1:7), those who hate knowledge do not have respect for the Lord (1:29), and those who fear the Lord are illuminated with knowledge (2:5).

The first two chapters of Proverbs teach us a valuable lesson. No matter hard one may try, an understanding of life and of God begins with a deep reverence for the creator[5]. This will lead to wisdom which is the humility to understand that God is God and we are not.  God grants us understanding and wisdom, but if we become prideful and elevate ourselves to a place we should not be then we will be humbled.  We will be humbled because we no longer have the fear of the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the foundation of a holy life.

Bibliography

Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.

Mangum, Douglas, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, and Rebekah Hurst, eds. Lexham Theological Wordbook. Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, 1998.

[1]. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 364.

[2]. Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications,, 1998).

[3]. James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

[4]. Douglas Mangum et al., eds., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[5]. David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 237.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary. William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at https://tucsonapologetics.org/for more great and informative Catholic content!

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Book Review on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth

Benedict XVI writing

Within the initial pages of his monograph on Christology, the emeritus pope delineates his aim in writing as simply to unite the Jesus of history with the Christ of faith (xiv). In a post-Enlightenment world, a seemingly ubiquity of scholars appear to be employing an exclusive use of historical-critical methods on the biblical texts in terms of answering the questions of faith. Not denying the usefulness of such methods, the German pope states, “The historical-critical method−let me repeat− is an indispensable tool, given the structure of Christian faith” (xvi). But it is important to understand the arena by which such a tool should be used, namely− in conjunction with and adherence to Magisterial teaching. The underlying presupposition of Benedict XVI’s Christology is a trust in the Gospels. I will later demonstrate how the retired pope maintains this stance throughout his prose.

Baptism of Jesus

Jesus' Baptism

Embarking on his journey toward an authentic portrait of Jesus, the former Tübingen professor presents a lucid and biblical approach to Christology in his book. Benedict XVI’s first chapter outlines the Baptism of Jesus. Here he stresses the importance of Jesus’ inaugurating his public ministry by wading in the place of sinners (p. 18). Moreover, the pope mentions the symbolism of the baptismal waters− as a sign of death and re-birth. Succinctly put by Ratzinger, “Jesus’ Baptism anticipated his death on the Cross, and the heavenly voice proclaimed an anticipation of the Resurrection” (p.23). This linkage to the Paschal Mystery is the cipher by which Benedict XVI situates the Baptism of the Lord. It is here he dismisses any liberal exegetical view that reduces this event to a mere vocational experience (pp. 23-24).

Temptation in the Desert

The second chapter in his book concerns the Temptation of Jesus. In the following pages, the German pope discusses the three temptations in depth. He compares the similarities and differences in the Matthean and Lucan accounts. Perhaps the most salient point to be taken from this section regards the second diabolical enticement. According to Benedict XVI, the Devil tries to use the Bible as a tool to tempt mankind. “The whole conversation of the second conversation of the second temptation takes the form of a dispute between two Bible scholars,” purports the pope (p. 35). Ultimately, what one can garner from this chapter is that the pope’s Christology admits to Jesus being submitted to the devil’s test like all mankind, but never succumbing to it due to his perfect obedience to the Father.

Jesus the New Moses

Jesus the New Moses

            The following three chapters relate primarily to the content of Jesus’ teaching. With regards to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Benedict XVI charts various interpretations and tries to harmonize any “seemingly divergent” flow of the content of the Kingdom of God to Christ (pp. 48-49). His section on the Sermon on the Mount is rich in detail and quantitatively the pope’s second longest chapter. Here he portrays Jesus as the New Moses and describes the Beatitudes as “a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus” (p. 74 ). Subsequently, the German pope spends some time on the Lord’s Prayer and systematically goes through the structure of the “Our Father”. Maintaining the tradition from Nicaea, Benedict XVI affirms Jesus is “Son in the strict sense− he is of one substance with the Father” (p. 138).

Pontifical Proof

In chapters six and seven, Ratzinger focuses on the ecclesial structure Christ had in mind when he chose the Twelve and gives an erudite rendition of Jesus’ three most famous parables. Being the lengthiest and arguably the most sublime chapter of his monograph, Benedict XVI’s eighth chapter spends nearly seventy pages portraying the principal images in John’s Gospel. He candidly refutes any scholarship, in particular Bultmann’s, that attaches a Gnostic cipher to the Johannine text (p. 228). With careful acumen, the former pontiff lists the key passages and meanings of the images of water, vine and wine, and bread within the Fourth Gospel. He also gave an especially detailed account on the motif of shepherds and showed how Jesus is the prime Good Shepherd (pp. 275-284).

Who Exactly is Jesus?

Who is Jesus

            The penultimate and final chapters represent decisive events in Jesus’ life. Marking Peter’s Confession as a pivotal act in the Gospels, Benedict XVI shows that previously people were simply guessing at Jesus’ identity (i.e. Elijah or John the Baptist) and interpret him solely in terms of the past (p. 292-293). Furthermore, it is at the Transfiguration that Peter recognizes that the messianic times have begun (p. 315). Lastly, the emeritus pope focuses on the two appellations by which Jesus referred to himself as− “Son of Man” and “Son”. He covers these titles by providing Old Testament context and delineation of New Testament sayings for the “Son of Man” and juxtaposed the ancient political referent of “Son” with Jesus’ meaning of the term (pp. 336-345).

Review of Benedict’s Analysis

Standing in lieu of the recent bifurcation of the Christ of faith from the historical Jesus, Benedict XVI’s Christology opposes this approach. His goal in writing this book was to portray Jesus in light of his communion with the Father. Benedict XVI constructed this book in the context of Scripture. I  found that the German pope achieved this objective and can give a copious amount of evidence to support it.

Pope Benedict XVI

            Firstly, Benedict XVI does a masterful job of showing Jesus’ awareness of the Old Testament and how a proper understanding of God’s events in Israel’s history is fulfilled by Christ. He shows that Jesus perfects and encapsulates the tripartite Old Testament offices of priest, prophet, and king. Furthermore, the pontiff in his chapter on Beatitudes portrays Jesus’ recapitulation and perfection on the Mosaic Law.

Dovetailing from the prior point, the pope also provides implicit critiques to the one-handed nature of modern scholarship regarding Christology. He goes on to refute the possibility of the Bible being viewed in an exclusively historical way. The word of God is not limited to the space-time continuum of history. Because of this, “The saints are the true interpreters of Holy Scriptures,” the German theologian asserts (p. 78). One learns about Christ not only through academics, but an active living of the faith.  A mere horizontal gaze at Jesus leads to a type of cynicism regarding his Sermon on the Mount teaching. In stark contrast to Nietzsche seeing Christ’s attitude toward the poor as a religion of resentment and envy, the emeritus pontiff rightly understands this novel teaching as God’s revelation of himself descending in love (95-97).

Interpreting Jesus’ Parables

Within the chapter on parables, Benedict XVI talks of the ever-present struggle in interpreting Christ’s parabolic messages. Once again he overtly points to the limits of historical-critical exegesis and says, “[it] cannot give us any definitive information” (184). After presenting his view to properly interpret Jesus’ words, his argument culminates by stating the hermeneutic of unlocking the parables is the Cross.

Ultimately, for Benedict, Jesus’ messages are a portent of the Paschal Mystery (p. 191). In his outline of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the former theology professor gives a laconic layout of various interpretations of Luke 15:11-32, and goes on to show an implicit Christology can be gleaned from the text through “attention to the historical context” (p. 207). This is because Jesus himself is a revelation of the Father.

Christology of B16

Along with his amicable refutations of modern scholarship, it is reading Benedict XVI’s final chapter that one can truly appreciate his contribution to Christology. Here he provides a meticulous delineation of occurrences and frequencies of the appellations Jesus attributes to himself− Son of Man and Son. With the former title, he shows its connection to the Old Testament (book of Daniel) and the latter portrays the relationship Jesus had to God. In fact, Benedict XVI shows that Mark’s Gospel alone uses this designation fourteen times and with the exception of Stephen in Acts 7:56, all references of “Son of Man” come from Jesus’ lips (pp. 321-322).

As an authentic Nicene theologian the German pope points out “Only the Son truly ‘knows’ the Father…Truly to know God presupposes communion with him [as Son]” (p. 340). Benedict XVI further fleshes out the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father in his outline of the Johannine “I AM” sayings in his concluding pages.

Jesus I am Statements

Finally, in brief fashion he shows how Nicaea’s term homoousios was not a Hellenistic infiltration of the faith or a jettisoning of biblical authority, but provided a stable foundation for theology and ultimately Christology (p. 355).

In sum, I found  Jesus of Nazareth to be a well-written and digestible read for both lay and scholar alike. Benedict XVI remained steadfast in his goal to portray Jesus from the Bible while using historical science to augment his points. This work is a hailing back to patristic Christology which trusted the Gospels and did not separate faith from history. Finally, he provided a salubrious and professional critique to the modern approach to Christology and any student of Catholic theology should be sure to check this monograph out.   

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