Leonard of Port Maurice
Feast Day: November 26
Canonized: June 29, 1867
Beatified: June 19, 1796
Leonard was born in 1676 in Port Maurice, on the cost of northern Italy. His father was a ship captain. Because he was a gifted student, he was sent to Rome when he was 13 to live with his uncle while attending the Jesuits’ Roman College. His family wanted him to become a doctor, but after completing his studies, Leonard decided to become a Franciscan friar. He hoped he could become a missionary to China.
After ordination, Leonard became seriously ill and was sent home. No one knew if he would recover. Leonard promised God that if he did get well, he would devote his life to the missions and to helping sinners change their lives. It took more than four years, but Leonard regained his health and began 40 years of mission work. Surprisingly, he did not become a missionary in foreign lands. He became a missionary to the people of his own country.
Leonard traveled throughout Italy, preaching at parish missions and retreats. He would often spend two or three weeks in a parish before moving on. That gave him time to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation with anyone who wanted to confess their sins and to receive God’s forgiveness. Leonard thought this was the most important part of his ministry. It was a sign that through his preaching, the Holy Spirit had inspired people to transform their lives and begin to live as followers to Jesus. He was so respected that two different popes called him to Rome to preach.
Leonard had a great devotion to the Stations of the Cross. He believed that praying the Stations would help people better understand that through his passion and death, Jesus showed his great love for us. By this Franciscan saint’s work, almost 600 Stations of the Cross were erected throughout Italy, most of them in the parishes where he had preached, and even one at the Colosseum in Rome. They were a lasting reminder to the people of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and encouraged people to stay close to Jesus through prayer.
St. Leonard died in Rome in 1751 at the age of 75. He was canonized in 1867 and in 1923 he was named the patron saint of parish mission preachers. His ministry reminds us that Jesus is always calling us to grow in our love for him and our brothers and sisters. When we think about Jesus’ death on the cross, we can remember all people who suffer in their daily journey. We can reach out to and pray for the hungry, the homeless, the unborn, the elderly and the neglected people of our world.