St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a remarkable person. He was a man of immense intellectual, moral and spiritual stature who also lived a life of swashbuckling adventure.
He was born on July 22, 1559 in the Italian Adriatic port city Brindisi. His parents gave him the name Julius Caesar when he was baptized. On February 18, 1575, Julius Caesar became Brother Lawrence in the Order of Capuchins at the order's novitiate house in Verona. After his profession he pursued studies in philosophy and theology at the University of Padua.
Lawrence had a outstanding memory. He mastered the principal European languages and most of the Semitic tongues. It was said that he knew the entire original text of the Bible. He was ordained a priest on December 18, 1582.
Father Lawrence was a fiery preacher with a forceful personality who held his listeners in rapt attention. He would adapt his preaching to the spiritual needs of the congregation. He had a good voice, an imposing appearance, personal magnetism, and a photographic memory. He is considered one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity. He painstakingly prepared his sermons and would spend three to five hours in prayer before delivering his more formal sermons. So deep was his feeling when he delivered his sermons that he often cried while preaching. His sermons were also fearless. He did not hesitate to denounce the vices of the strong and powerful, even when they were present.
In addition to evangelical missions to the Protestants and diplomatic missions, Pope Clement VIII gave Fr. Lawrence the task of instructing the Jews. Because of his knowledge of Hebrew and his powerful reasoning, he brought a great number of them to recognize the truths of the Catholic Faith. His saintliness and kindness further prepared the way for their conversion. Some of the Jews called Father Lawrence "the living Bible". He was familiar not only with the Old Testament Hebrew text and its Aramaic versions (Targums) but also with commentaries on them by medieval Jewish scholars.
In 1601 Lawrence was named chaplain of the Imperial army. He instilled confidence in the soldiers and lead the Emperor's army to victory against the Turks, who outnumbered the Emperor's soldiers by about three to one. He rode in front of the soldiers on horseback carrying a crucifix in his hand. He led them into the thick of battle, holding the crucifix aloft, and came through unscathed.
Lawrence successfully combined his very active physical and intellectual life with an intense inner life. His practice of religious virtue equaled that of the great saints. He rose to high levels of contemplation, rarely celebrating Mass without falling into ecstasy. His Masses often lasted six to ten hours, the longest taking sixteen hours. One witness observed him levitate three feet above the floor for a hour and a half while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He had deep and tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Mariale, a collection of 84 of his sermons on Mary, comprises a complete and profound Mariology
Known as the Apostolic Doctor, St. Lawrence was a prolific writer. His known writings comprise eight volumes of sermons, two treatises on oratory, commentaries on Genesis and Ezekiel, and three volumes of religious polemics.
This book is St. Lawrence's Commentary on Genesis 1-3, taken from his Explanatio in Genesium, translated for the first time ever into English.