Saint Of The Day For January 8: Saint Lawrence Giustiniani
Born on 1 July 1381 into a noble family, Lawrence became protopatriarch of Venice. As a child, he was orphaned by his father and his 24-year-old mother had five children, including his brother Leonardo, who was to become one of the most famous humanists of the time.
Lawrence, The memory of the vision
Around the age of twenty, he decided to enter the monastery after a vision he had recounted: ‘I too,’ he wrote in Fasciculus amoris, ‘was one of you: I sought with anxiety and ardent desire peace in external things, but I did not find it.
Finally a beautiful maiden appeared to me, more splendid than the sun, more gentle than balm and whose name I did not know.
She, seeing me near with her beautiful face, said to me with a calm speech:
“O young man, why do you not pour your heart into mine and love me? What you seek in me, what you desire I present to you, I offer it to you, on condition that you want me for your wife’.
My heart melted at her words, her love pierced me… I longed to know her name, her dignity.
She added that her name was God’s Wisdom, who in the fullness of time had taken human form for the reconciliation of mankind…
I therefore loved her as a bride, I held her as my dearest person and, through her, I tasted everywhere the good of peace, for which I had previously been searching.
Thanks to his uncle, Lawrence approached a group of clergymen who were occupying the Augustinian convent of San Giorgio in Alga at that time and asked to join what was to become in 1404 the Congregation of Secular Canons.
Despite the fact that a cousin and his own mother tried everything to deter him from this project, Lawrence became a priest in 1405.
In 1407 we find him superior in the new House of Vicenza and then from 1409 to 1418 again at San Giorgio.
In 1424 Lawrence became General of the Congregation and remained so until 1431.
Lawrence, A man of prayer and action
The documents show that Lawrence was a great man of prayer and sacrifice and, at the age of 38, he also began to write about his inner experience:
‘To speak of the effects of charity without having experienced it,’ he writes in the prologue of ‘De casto connubio’, ‘is an indication of temerity’.
Much sought after by the faithful, and he was always ready to give advice to those who asked him for it, whether they were learned or simple, he used concise and effective expressions:
“He who does not use the Lord as much as he can, shows that he does not appreciate Him”;
“A servant of the Lord avoids even small failings, so that his charity does not grow cold”;
“We must avoid over-complicated affairs, because in complications there is always the devil’s paw”.
Lawrence, The Bishop
In 1433, Eugene IV appointed him Bishop of Castello (district of Venice) and this brought about a great change in his life.
From a contemplative life, he found himself having to manage government responsibilities that he had never taken on before.
He gave impetus to the renewal of priestly life, opened a seminary for the poor, regulated liturgical life, and founded some twenty women’s monasteries.
Having suppressed the patriarchal see of Grado and the episcopal title of Castello, Nicholas V transferred the see to Venice in 1451, appointing Lawrence as its first patriarch.
The Doge did not see this move well, fearing a clash between religious and political power, but he met Lawrence and realised he was dealing with a true man of prayer.
On 8 January 1456, at the age of 74, he died of a strong fever: accustomed to hard penances, when confronted with the invitation to change his bedstead, he replied: ‘Christ died on the cross and I should die on a bed of feathers?
In 1471, the process of canonisation was started, and in 1727 Benedict XIII proclaimed him a saint.