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  • Alexandra Clark | The Daily Knight

St. Leonard's Love of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Stations of the Cross and the Immaculata

Alexandra Clark| The Daily Knight

St. Alphonsus de Liguori has said: "St. Leonard of Port Maurice is the Greatest Missionary of the 18th Century!"

There is so much we can say about St. Leonard but here is just a glimpse into this Great Missionary:

St. Leonard is responsible for the Stations of the Cross being in every Catholic Church today! The erection of the Stations of the Cross in the Coliseum in December, 1750, was really Leonard's last great work at Rome. And the Stations of the Cross became a vital feature in Leonard's missions. He constantly mentions it in his letters. In his Corsican campaign it was one of the means he most relied on to instill into his fierce audiences the gentler spirit of Christ and conquer their souls. Before St. Leonard the Via Crucis was only a practice done in the Franciscan Churches. In his lifetime he erected 571 Stations of the Cross throughout Italy! (Read the Sermon given by St. Leonard on the Holy Stations of the Cross here.)

Crucifix carried by St. Leonard on his missions

Below is what St. Leonard says about why the Coliseum is a venerable relic of antiquity. For what he says contradicts what is being said about the Coliseum today, namely, the lie that there were never any Christians put to death within its walls:

"What is it, then, that makes us exalt to the skies this wonderful and stupendous monument ? It is the precious blood of so many hundreds and thousands of martyrs, devoured by wild beasts, torn asunder by the hand of the executioner, consumed by fire, or in a thousand other ways, tortured and immolated before God. This blood so pure, this is what makes the Coliseum admirable in our eyes and worthy of veneration ; this is what has bound together the Faith of Rome ; and this it is which will establish the Holy See more immutably than ever in this capital of the world.

To inflame your hearts with loving devotion towards the holy martyrs who here shed their blood for Jesus Christ, let us dwell on their numbers, their nature, their constancy.

As for the number, you can judge of it by the witty and profound reply which the Pope, St. Pius V., once gave to some who asked from him relics ; he sent them to gather up the soil from the Coliseum, all saturated as it is with martyrs blood, alluding thereby to the vast number of those athletes of Jesus Christ who, by their blood, consecrated this amphitheatre. One of the most famous was St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who, if not the very first, was at any rate one of the first, and deserves, by reason of his glorious deeds, to be called in some sort the proto-martyr of the Coliseum. Such was the constancy of this illustrious confessor of the faith that, writing to the faithful at Rome, he begs them not to seek by their prayers to hinder his triumph. This had happened to other Christians, whose bodies, thanks to a Divine interposition, had been respected by the wild beasts. For fear, he wrote, they dare not touch my body, as happened to other martyrs. He wished to be ground as wheat by the teeth of lions ; and such was indeed his fate, for his ardent wishes were fulfilled to the letter. Other martyrs of whom we have unquestioned record are St. Eustachius and his companions, St. Bibiana, St. Martina, SS. Abdon and Sennen, two hundred and seventy-two soldiers, St. Vitus, St. Modesta, St. Sempronius and his companions, and a crowd of others whom it would be too long to name. I shall confine myself to two others, of whom the first was the architect himself of this marvellous monument....Tertullian, who flourished in the third century, relates something which gives us an idea of the vast numbers of martyrs who perished in the Coliseum. He tells us in his Apologcticus that the pagans were accustomed to attribute to the Christians whatever evil befell their city or empire. Did any calamity occur a famine, a war, an earth quake, the plague, the flooding of the Tiber, or such like straightway the pagans would gather in the streets, crying : The Christians to the lions / The Christians to the lions! (Christiani ad leones! Christiani ad leones!) Picture to yourselves how these unfortunate Christians must have suffered during so many years. But why call them unfortunate? Happy rather a thousand times happy! The one thing I envy in those ancient times was the ever-recurring opportunity of becoming a martyr for Jesus Christ. Dear brethren, if we cannot be martyrs indeed, let us at least to-night be martyrs in desire." (Life of Leonard page 119-120)

It was also St. Leonard who composed the Divine Praise as a reparation for the sins of blasphemy to the God and His saints. Leonard offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with immense devotion, preached several times a day, heard confessions for many hours, prayed the Divine Office on his knees, encouraged the recitation of the Three Hail Mary's (as was revealed to St. Matilde) and said if one practices Spiritual Communion everyday, in just a month you will see yourself completely changed.

St. Leonard stressed the importance of the practice of maintaining oneself in the Presence of God at all times. He recommended people to pray many times throughout the day, and especially at the beginning of every action, saying: “My Jesus, mercy!” That way they can pray always, even amidst their daily occupations, and do everything with pure intention, directing all to God alone with love in every action they perform.

Here is something of what Leonard had to say on his great life-work, the missions:

"I shall give myself to this (he writes in chapter xxii.) entirely ex toto corde, spending night and day in that saintly employment, always occupied in hearing confessions, in giving advice, in establishing peace, in preaching, yet desirous throughout, not of following natural inclinations, but the movement of grace, renewing often a pure and simple intention ; and, though at one time I felt a certain distaste for mission-work, now that two Sovereign Pontiffs have assured me that such is the Will of God, and that Benedict XIV. has expressly laid such duty upon me, I consecrate myself whole-heartedly to it, hoping that I seek therein God rather than myself. . . . To give a good example to others, I shall prostrate myself before going into the pulpit to preach, and with my face to the ground, adoring the Majesty of God, I shall make an act of con trition for my sins and faults, and an act of diffidence in myself, being convinced that compunction of heart and the conversion of sinners is the work of the all-powerful arm of God and wholly the effect of grace. Therefore I shall lay no store by my own ability, industry, or learning rather, full of distrust of my own powers, I shall rise with a real confidence in God, begging Him to deign to touch all hearts and convert all sinners. Then I shall repeat several times, My Jesus, mercy."

St. Leonard’s love for Our Lady led him to ardently desire to see – and do his utmost to procure – the dogmatic definition of her Immaculate Conception. He called this the most important cause in the world, because every other good depended on it: peace, happiness, triumph over heresies, triumph of the Church. He urged prelates to petition Rome for this. [N.B. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception would be solemnly proclaimed a century later, in 1854, by Pope Pius IX.]

In seeking First the Kingdom of Heaven, St. Leonard found

it in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. His Love for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass compelled him to write a book called Hidden Treasure, here is an excerpt:

A TREASURE IS appreciated only in as much as it is known. Hence, dear readers, there are so few who value as they ought the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Although it is the greatest of all treasures which enrich the Church of God, it is still a hidden treasure, known only to a few privileged souls. If this celestial pearl were but known, every one would give all he had to purchase it. There would not, then, be found a single person who would dare use the scandalous words: " A Mass more or less is of no consequence." But, like the merchant in the Gospel, he would give all his fortune to render himself master of a treasure so priceless. Went and sold all that he possessed and bought it (Matt. xiii. 46.) It is, then, for those who do not realize such an adorable mystery of love that I have written this little book.

After all his great missionary work he arrived on the evening of 26 November, 1751, at his beloved monastery of St. Bonaventura on the Palatine Hill, and expired on the same night at eleven o’clock after having received the Last Rites at the age of seventy-five. (Read his full life here online)

I highly recommend reading at least these two great works below written by St. Leonard as they are among the greatest treasures of the Church and will have no doubt in increasing your love and devotion on the matter:

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved (St. Leonard’s sermon) – pdf; or read online here; or audio here

And here is a short video version to the longer version of the Little Number of Those Who Are Saved:


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