Saint Leonard of Port Maurice: Preacher of Parish Missions

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice: Preacher of Parish Missions

On November 26, Franciscans around the world honor the memory of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676–1751), famous preacher of parish missions.

Discerning a religious vocation

Leonard was born in the town of Porto Maurizio on the Italian Riviera, then in the Republic of Genoa, where his father was a ship captain. At age 13, he was sent to live with an uncle in Rome where he attended the Jesuit college and the Gregorian University to prepare himself for a career in medicine. He discerned a religious vocation, however, and entered the Reformed Friars Minor of the Strict Observance in Rome in 1697.

St Leonard of Port Maurice Church of San Bonaventura Rome 700pxlsThe small Church of San Bonaventura on the Palatine Hill in Rome is where Leonard entered the Order and where he died.

St Leonard of Port Maurice interior Church of San Bonaventura Rome 700pxlsThe interior of the Church of St. Bonaventure whose intimate venue makes it a popular venue for Roman weddings.

Devoting his life to ministry of evangelization

When he was ordained in 1703, he hoped to spend his life preaching the Gospel in China, but was turned down due to his frail health. He then devoted his life to the ministry of evangelization in his homeland.

St Leonard of Port Maurice Church of San Salvatore Florence 700pxlsThe Church of San Salvatore all Monte in Florence was Saint Leonard’s home for the first decades of his ministry.

Preaching tirelessly

For 40 years Leonard tirelessly preached parish missions, Lenten sermons, and retreats throughout Italy to draw people to a life of true conversion. For the first decades of his ministry, he was based in Florence, preaching throughout Tuscany, but after 1736 he was stationed in Rome, although he branched out from there for tours in other regions.

St Leonard of Port Maurice preaching in Piazza Navona Rome 700pxlsThis painting depicts Saint Leonard preaching in the Piazza Navona in Rome.

Promoting the Way of the Cross, perpetual adoration of the Eucharist

Enormous crowds would turn out to hear him, leading St. Alphonsus Liguori to call him “the great missionary of the (18th) century.” Throughout his preaching, Leonard promoted devotion to the Way of the Cross; he erected over 500 sets of “Stations” throughout Italy, most famously those in the Roman Coliseum. He also promoted perpetual adoration of the Eucharist. Exhausted by his long labors, he died in the friary where he had entered the Order, San Bonaventura on the Palatine Hill in Rome, in 1751.

Declared patron of preachers of parish missions

Leonard left many writings: sermons, letters, and devotional treatise. He was beatified in 1796 and was canonized in 1867. Pius XI declared him the patron of all those preaching parish missions. Since 1996, his remains rest in the cathedral of his home town, Porto Maurizio (now part of the city of Imperia).

Saint Leonard’s devotional treatise on the Mass, "The Hidden Treasure," is available online.

Wisdom of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice

In a hundred places in Holy Scripture, God tells us that it is truly his desire to save all people. “Is it my will that a sinner should die, and not that he should be converted from his ways and live? . . .I live, says the Lord God. I desire not the death of the sinner. Be converted and live.” When someone wants something very much, it is said that he is dying with desire; this is a hyperbole. But God has wanted and still wants our salvation so much that he died of desire: he suffered death to give us life. This will to save all people is therefore not an affected and superficial will in God; it is a real, effective, and beneficial will; for God provides each of us with all the means most proper for us to be saved.

 

What salutary insights will continuous meditation on the bitter passion of the Son of God stir up in the soul! Daily experience has taught me that by the devout prayer of the Way of the Cross peoples' lives are quickly changed for the better. . .

 

If the Lord at the moment of my death reproves me for being too kind to sinners, I will answer, “My dear Jesus, if it is a fault to be too kind to sinners, it is a fault I learned from you, for you never scolded anyone who came to you seeking mercy.”

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Main image: Saint Leonard of Port Maurice

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.