Saint Leopold Mandić: Apostle of Christian Unity

Saint Leopold Mandić: Apostle of Christian Unity

On May 12, Franciscans celebrate the memory of Saint Leopold Mandić of Castelnuovo (1866-1942), a Capuchin friar famous for his dedicated ministry in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Born in Montenegro

Bogdan Mandić was the twelfth child born to a Croatian couple in the town of Herceg Novi (Castelnuovo) in what is now Montenegro, on the Dalmatian coast of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Herceq Novi.Montenegro birthplace St Leopold of Mandic 700pxlsThe town of Herceg Novi, Montenegro, birthplace of Saint Leopold

Joining Italian Capuchins

Italian Capuchins had staffed a church in his hometown since the 1600s when the area was ruled by the Venetian Republic. At age 16 the young Bogdan left to study at their minor seminary in Udine, Italy. He was received into the Order in 1884 and given the name Leopold.

St Leopold of Mandic time of ordination 1890Saint Leopold Mandić at the time of his ordination, 1890

Keen mind and inner resilience

Despite many physical handicaps—he was only 4'5" tall, walked with a limp, and spoke with a stammer—he was gifted with a keen mind and developed a great inner resilience. Leopold desired greatly to be a missionary in his homeland and work for the reconciliation of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but his physical limitations prevented this.

Merciful minister of Sacrament of Reconciliation

Other than two brief stints in the Balkans, Leopold spent most of his religious life in Italy as a merciful minister of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially in Padua where he was stationed for over 30 years.

Capuchin Church Padua dedicated to St Leopold of Mandic 700pxlsThe Capuchin church in Padua, Italy, now dedicated to Saint Leopold Mandić

Long hours in confessional

In his later years Leopold suffered from crippling arthritis but still spent up to 12 hours a day in the confessional. He finally developed esophageal cancer that led to his death in Padua on July 30, 1942.

Patron of confessors, cancer sufferers

Canonized in 1983 by Pope John Paul II, Saint Leopold is hailed as an apostle of Christian Unity and as a patron of confessors and cancer sufferers.

Remains venerated during Jubilee Year of Mercy

Pope Francis brought Leopold’s remains to Rome for veneration during the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. At that time, the late Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap., wrote a nice introduction to the saint

Ponder Leopold’s wisdom

Two sayings of Saint Leopold to ponder:

 "Some people say that I am too kind. But if you come and kneel before me, isn't this a sufficient proof that you want to have God's pardon? God's mercy is beyond all expectation."

 "Be at peace; place everything on my shoulders. I will take care of it."

 Leopold once explained, "I give my penitents only small penances because I do the rest myself."

Dominic Monti

Written by : Dominic Monti

Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. A native of nearby Bradford, PA, he was educated at St. Bonaventure (BA); after joining the Order, he attended the Catholic University of America (STB), Union Theological Seminary, NY (STM), and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (PhD). He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor. He is spiritual assistant to a federation of Poor Clares and the Franciscan Secular Institute, the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ.
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