Saint of the Day – 5 September – Saint Lawrence Justinian (1381-1455) Bishop of Venice, Confessor, Reformer, Spiritual writer. Born on 1 September 1381 at Venice, Italy and died on 8 January 1455 at Venice of natural causes. Also known as – Lorenzo Giustiniani, Laurence…Laurentius…Patriarch of Venice. Patronage – Venice, Italy. Additional Memorial – 8 Jamuary.
The Roman Martyrology states of him today: “The Feast of St Lawrence Justinian, first Patriarch of Venice, who, by glorious miracles and virtues, illustrated the Episcopal dignity which he received against his will on this day. His birthday into Heaven is 8 January.”
Lawrence Justinian was a member of the well-known Giustiniani family, which includes several Saints. The piety of his mother seems to have served as an inspiration for his own piety and he chose a life of prayer and service. In 1404, after he had been Ordained a Deacon, at the suggestion of an uncle who was a Priest, he joined a community of Canons regular following a monastic form of life on the island of San Giorgio in Alga. He was admired by his fellows for his poverty, mortification and fervency of prayer. Two years after his Ordination to the Priesthood in 1407, the community accepted the Rule of St. Augustine. He was chosen to be the first Prior of the community.
Lawrence promoted the Constitutions which had been established for the Canons Regular of St George’S Monastery, which was embraced by other communities of Canons in the region and shortly thereafter, he became the Prior General of his Congregation. He was so zealous in spreading the merits of his community, that he was looked upon as if he were the actual Founder of the Order.
His great humility was a lesson to all his fellow Canons – when he went out begging, even to his own family home where the servants were embarrassed and as quickly as they could, gave him the bread he sought and then hrried him away, before the family were aware that their ‘child‘ was the beggar at the door.
Lawrence, although he had no great oratory skills preached very effectively, on the one hand, continuing to go around with his habit and saddlebag begging and, on the other hand, writing tirelessly. He wrote for the learned and the ignorant, theological treatises and popular pamphlets, offering everyone a guide to personal reform in faith and practicing that faith. He urged the faithful to recover a sense of communion with the whole Church, he encouraged trust in God’s mercy rather than fear of His justice.
In 1433, Pope Eugene IV, one of the Founders of the Monastery of San Giorgio, named Lawrence as the Bishop of Castello. Although he resisted this elevation to the Episcopal dignity supported by his brother Canons in protest, Pope Eugene, who knew him very well, did not heed his protesting pretexts – his tiredness, the task too difficult, etc … He found a Diocese in disarray and his administration was marked by considerable growth and reform. In 1451, Pope Nicholas V united the Diocese of Castello with the Patriarchate of Grado, and the seat of the Patriarchate was moved to Venice, making Lawrence the first Patriarch of Venice, a post that he held for over four years.
It was during Lawrence’s rule that Constantinople fell to Muslim forces. Due to their centuries of close trading partnerships with the Byzantine Empire, the people of Venice were in distress as to their future. He took a leading role in helping the Republic to deal with the crisis, working with the Senate to help chart its future, as well as with the clergy and people.
He died on 8 January 1455 and was Canonised by Pope Alexander VIII (1689–1691) on 16 October 1690. His works, consisting of sermons, letters and ascetic treatises, have been frequently reprinted.
Pope Innocent XII (1691–1700) inserted his Feast day into the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 5 September, the Anniversary of his elevation to the Episcopate.