Saint Laurence Justinian, known in Italy as Lorenzo Giustiniani, was born in Venice in 1381. As a child, he was very serious and unusually pious and, at the age of nineteen, he defied his mother’s wishes and joined the Augustinian Order of the Canons of Saint George in Alga. One of his uncles was already a priest in this order. Laurence had been inspired to take holy orders after he saw a vision of a beautiful woman identified as “Eternal Wisdom”.
When one of Laurence’s friends tried to stop him, he explained the shortness of this life and that we must think of our future in the next world. Instead of continuing the argument, the friend joined the order at the same time as Laurence.
While a monk, Laurence constantly begged alms for the poor and lived a life of great austerity and mortification. He refused to drink except at meals and even willingly underwent two operations without any form of anesthetic. When questioned, he stated that he was preparing himself for Purgatory and attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Church’s heroic martyrs.
Laurence was ordained a priest in 1406 and shortly afterwards became the Father Superior of his congregation. By this time, the order had become quite worldly and Laurence quickly enacted many reforms and reminded his fellow monks of the virtue of humility. He is often considered the order’s second founder.
He reluctantly became the Bishop of Venice in 1433 and founded a total of fifteen monasteries in his diocese. In 1451, Pope Nicholas V appointed him the first Patriarch of Venice. Because of his many teachings and reforms, he is often considered the forerunner of Saint Charles Borromeo.
Laurence remained humble to the last. When he knew his life was drawing to a close, he insisted on being placed on a humble bed of straw. Saint Laurence Justinian died of natural causes January 8, 1455 at the age of seventy-four. He was beatified by Pope Clement VII in 1524 and was canonized by Pope Alexander VII on October 16, 1690. His feast day is on September 5. The saint’s writings are still read to this day.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints