Saint Leonard of Port Maurice,
Priest, I Order,
Pray for us.
Born in Porto Maurizio, Liguria, Italy, Paul Jerome Casanova went to Rome to live with his uncle and studied at the Gregorian University, where he had an initial inkling of a vocation but uncertain on what to do about it. Walking through the Piazza del Gesu, he saw two Franciscans – struck by their poverty and humility, followed them to their Church of St. Bonaventure al Palatino along Piazza Venezia today. As he entered the Church, he heard the Franciscans chanting Compline: “Converte nos, Deus salutaris noster” (Make us turn to you, our saving God). His response was “Haec requies mea” (here is my life’s work). He consulted Jesuits and Dominicans about this and they told him that his vocation was genuine.
Against the wishes of his uncle who wanted him to be a physician, Paul Jerome entered a branch of the Franciscan Order known as the Riformella, which was founded by Blessed Bonaventure of Barcelona, on October 2, 1697, at Ponticelli and took the name, Leonard. After his priestly ordination in 1703, he wanted to go to the mission but was refused. But he became a great popular missionary in Italy and combined active missionary work with severe asceticism and much solitude that he might live for God and that he might live in God as he himself expressed it. For 22 years he preached in Tuscany and Genoa to great crowds, then returned to be a missionary preacher in Rome.
Leonard was sent to Corsica to try to bring peace but was unsuccessful. He took over the monastery of San Francisco del Monte at Florence and founded the famous retreat of Incontro in Florence in 1715.
All his life his apostolate was preaching, popular missions, retreats and series of Lenten sermons, and especially the promotion of the devotion to the Way of the Cross, setting up Stations of the Cross in 571 places in Italy. His love for the Passion of Christ was his special sign, but he also preached devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Sacrament, and the Immaculate Conception.
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