St Leonard of Port Maurice
"the great missionary of the 18th century" by St. Alphonsus Liguori, was another Franciscan who
tried to go to the foreign missions (China), failed at that and succeeded tremendously in some other
Leonard’s father was a
ship captain whose family lived in Port Maurice on the northwestern coast of Italy. At 13, Leonard
went to Rome to live with his uncle Agostino and study at the Roman College. Leonard was a good
student and was destined for a career in medicine. In 1697, however, he joined the Friars Minor, a
decision that his uncle opposed bitterly.
After ordination Leonard contracted tuberculosis and was sent to his
hometown to rest or perhaps to die. He made a vow that if he recovered he would dedicate his life to
the missions and to the conversion of sinners. He soon was able to begin his 40-year career of
preaching retreats, Lenten sermons and parish missions throughout Italy. His missions lasted 15 to
18 days, and he often stayed an additional week to hear confessions. He said: "I believe that in
those days the real and greatest fruit of the mission is gathered. As much good is done in these
days as during the mission."
As a means of keeping alive the religious fervor awakened in a mission, Leonard promoted the
Stations of the Cross, a devotion which had made little progress in Italy up to this time. He also
preached regularly on the Holy Name of Jesus.
Since he realized that he needed time simply to pray alone, Leonard
regularly made use of the ritiros (houses of recollection) that he helped establish throughout
Leonard was canonized
in 1867; in 1923 he was named patron of those who preach parish missions.
Other Saints of the day: