Saint Leonard of Port Maurice

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice
(San Leonardo da Porto Maurizio)

Feast Day – November 26

Leonard was born in 1676 at Port Maurice, a seaport near Genoa, the son of Dominic Casanova, a ship captain. Dominic raised his children with so much care that three of his sons entered the Franciscan Order, and his only daughter took the veil.

When Leonard was thirteen years old, he went to Rome to enter the renowned Roman college where St Aloysius once pursued his studies. There he so distinguished himself by piety, diligence, and good works that he was called another Aloysius. After completing his college studies he thought of entering the medical profession. But he soon perceived that God was calling him to another state of life. He happened to visit the church connected with the Franciscan convent of St Bonaventure in Rome when the choir intoned the verse at Compline, “Converte nos Deus, salutaris noster! – Convert us, O God, our salvation!” The young man was strangely impressed by these words and took them as a call from heaven to enter the order and devote himself to God’s service.

On October 2, 1697, his request for the holy habit was granted, and eventually he became the glory of the friary of St Bonaventure. His exact observance of the rule was admirable; likewise his fervor at prayer, his burning love of Jesus and Mary, his rigorous penance, his humility, and his tireless charity toward his neighbor. It was his ardent desire to preach the Gospel to the pagans in China and to shed his blood for the Faith. But his delicate constitution for a while even prevented him from preaching. Consumption seemed to have claimed him as a victim; but, at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, he was miraculously restored to health.

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice now devoted himself with renewed zeal to parish missions. Amid great hardships and dangers, he spent twenty-four years as a missionary, covering every section of Italy and the island of Corsica, which was then notorious for lawless inhabitants. The power of his words made a deep impression because of his strict life; and he converted innumerable sinners. Meanwhile he did not forget himself. For his benefit and that of his brethren engaged in preaching missions, he built a retreat house at Incontro near Florence, where the missionaries could withdraw for a time in order to prepare themselves for future activities by a life of seclusion and penance. During his sojourns there, Saint Leonard of Port Maurice scourged his body without compassion in order to obtain mercy for himself and for poor sinners. Then he wrote down his well-known resolutions, which he kept until his death.

In Rome Saint Leonard of Port Maurice founded several pious confraternities, especially that of the Sacred Heart. He taught the people frequently to say the little ejaculation: “My Jesus, mercy!” Wherever he went, he spread the devotion of the Way of the Cross and perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In a special manner he also fostered devotion to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin; and to the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin he attributed all the good he had ever received or done in his life.

Pope Benedict XIV held Father Leonard in high esteem. The pope secured the promise from him not to die in any other city but Rome, and Father Leonard kept his promise. Returning to Rome from a mission in Bologna, Saint Leonard of Port Maurice died in the convent of St Bonaventure, November 26, 1751. God glorified him in life but still more after his death by numerous miracles. Pope Pius VI, who had known him personally, beatified him in 1796; and Pope Pius IX canonized him June 29, 1867. Pope Pius XI appointed him patron of all parish missionaries.

From: The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion A. Habig, OFM

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