Leonore Gusman


The Servant of God Leonore Gusman, Virgin, Second Order

Leonore was the daughter of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, one of Spain's wealthiest and most distinguished gentlemen. When she was eight years old, she lost both her parents and was placed in the care of an uncle at Seville, who provided for her with a truly paternal love. She returned his affection with childlike attachment and obedience until the time arrived when there was a question of a state of life.

When Leonore was eleven years old, at which age Spanish girls were often promised in marriage, her uncle believed he was obliged to provide for his foster daughter, and arranged for her an excellent opportunity to marry. Leonore, however, rejected the proposal. When her uncle praised the bridegroom he had chosen for her and desired that she should at least make his acquaintance, she explained that she had already chosen the heavenly Bridegroom and could not give her attention to anyone else without failing in the fidelity she owed to Him.

A few days later she asked for permission to visit her aunt, who was the abbess of a convent of Poor Clares. Leonore used this opportunity to slip into the enclosure of the convent, and nothing could induce her to leave it again. Her uncle and other relatives were very much embittered at this turn of events. A complaint was even lodged with the king, together with a request that Leonore be forced to return home.

The Servant of God Leonore Gusman


The king decided that Leonore should be taken from the convent of her aunt to another convent of Poor Clares, where she should freely express her wishes before the archbishop and the royal governor. There she declared that in accordance with the desire of her heart, she had freely chosen the religious state, adding that she would rather be torn into a thousand pieces than be unfaithful to her vocation. So she was permitted to return to her aunt’s convent, where, at the age of twelve, she received the holy habit.

Leonore was a model for all the sisters in complete poverty, deep humility, strict penance, and persevering prayer. After she had practiced perfect obedience as a subject for twenty-eight years, she was elected abbess, which office she administered worthily for the space of forty-one years until her death. Thirteen months after her death her grave was opened and her body was found entirely incorrupt, for which reason she was buried in a beautiful tomb in the choir of the church.

“Honor your father and your mother, that you may live long upon the land.” (Exod. 20,12) Thus almighty God spoke solemnly upon Mount Sinai and thereby made respect and obedience toward parents and their representatives a strict obligation. Did Leonore not fail in this respect when she refused to follow the will of her uncle and foster father in regard to marriage? No, because this commandment of God requires obedience only in matters that are just and pleasing to God. Children should, indeed, heed the advice of their parents, especially when they are about to choose a state of life, and they should seek their parent’s blessing for whatever choice they make, but parents may neither force their children into any particular state nor restrain them from following a chosen vocation. If they do so, their children are in no way bound to obey them.

After our duties toward God are set forth in the first three commandments, the commandment to honor and obey parents is a holy obligation for children. This commandment is placed at the head of all the duties we have toward men. To whom could we be more indebted than to our parents? And who will be more concerned about what is truly best than Christian parents are on behalf of their children? Hence Soloman the Wise, after saying, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” immediately adds the precept, “My son, hear the instruction of your father and forsake not the law of your mother.” (Prov. 1,7-8) That holds not only for the years of childhood but as long as one lives with his parents in the parental home.

God adds a promise to the fourth commandment: “That you may live a long time, and it may be well with you in the land.” General experience confirms the truth that he who honors his parents ensures a long life and a share in the good things of this world. On the other hand, not infrequently the curse of God rests already in this life upon those who do not honor their father and mother. “The eye that mocks at his father, and that despises his mother, let the ravens pick it out, and the young eagles eat it.” (Prov. 30,17) But, if it appears too humiliating to you to obey the orders of your parents, then reflect on the example of Jesus Christ and the little saying found in a children’s catechism: “Obedience is the grandest choice, its act true greatness claims; Obedient was God’s only Son, and He in heaven reigns.”

*from the Franciscan Book of Saints by Marion A. Habig, OFM

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