Leopold Mandic


Saint Memory of Saint Leopold Mandic 12 May 2014

Brothers and sisters, let's not waste any more time, we have so little of it, let's follow the example of the saints!

Cardinal Angelo Comastri

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Homily by Cardinal Angelo Comastri

On October 16, 1983, in the homily of the canonization, John Paul II expressed himself thus: Saint Leopold left no theological or literary works, he did not fascinate with his culture, he did not found social works, and all those who knew him said that he was a poor friar, fragile, sickly, his greatness is elsewhere, in sacrificing himself, giving himself day after day, for the entire time of his life, in the silence, in the privacy, in the humility of a confessional cell, which I visited a short while ago and I was moved, extraordinary wonders happened in those few square meters.

The stature of Saint Leopold, as everyone knows, did not exceed one meter and 35 centimetres, but before God the true stature of a person is the stature of charity. In charity Father Leopoldo was a giant, and this is why we remember him with such admiration. What do you do with selfish people? What do selfish people leave behind? What signs do they leave? A man full of love like San Leopoldo left a profound mark. They say that once, a man from Padua who had not confessed for several years, decided to go to confession to Father Leopoldo, attracted by the fame of the Capuchin Father. The man was fearful and confused and we can imagine the scene, and he was tempted to go back.

As soon as Father Leopoldo saw him, he got up from his chair and went to meet him with a smiling face and as he used to say to him: sit down, sit down. The moved and embarrassed man went to sit in the confessor's chair, Father Leopoldo then without the slightest hesitation, knelt on the ground and in that position listened to the penitent's confession. When the man finally realized what had happened, he was deeply moved and the memory of the goodness and humility of that extraordinary confessor remained indelible in his soul.

Souls are thus won through attraction, Pope Francis rightly stated: "Confession is the amazement of meeting someone who is waiting for you". God is the one who anticipates you, you are looking for him but He looks for you first, in the church and above all in the priests. This overflowing love of God must become visible, who tirelessly searches for lost sheep, regardless of sacrifices and inconveniences. Pope Francis in the apostolic observation Evangelii Guadium recently recalled a dense and lucid statement by Pope Benedict who says this: "The church does not grow through proselytism but through attraction" and what attracts? Only love, fully experienced love, almost visible, palpable goodness, after all Jesus clearly stated: "As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world believe."

Professor Ezio Franceschini, who was rector of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and who was also a penitent of Father Leopoldo, remembers him this way: he confessed for ten to twelve hours a day, look, it's a huge effort, closed in a cell of a few square meters , regardless of the illness, of the cold of the heat, of the tiredness of that interminable succession of souls who came to his feet, with the burden of their sins, their pains, their needs. He came forward with tired but always careful steps, along the narrow corridor that led to the cell, he devotedly kissed the priest's stole, he sank into a sort of armchair until he almost disappeared in it, so small as he was and he listened, he listened patiently.

He made observations almost with the air of asking for forgiveness, as if he were the sinner and not the penitent and in pronouncing the formula of absolution, his words suddenly lost all defects and were expressed in precise and clear syllables as happened when in the saint mass pronounced the formula of consecration.

Father Leopoldo was well aware that sin is humanity's misfortune, in fact when man cuts the bond with God, he also cuts the bond with joy and peace, and experiences emptiness and the self-punishment of selfishness and of pride. Pope John XXIII once said: "there is no need to punish the selfish, he punishes himself, there is no need to punish the proud, he punishes himself, he will never be happy. The prophet Jeremiah with impressive words thus describes the punitive dynamism of sin, he says: "they will follow what is empty because sin is empty and they too will become empty" and adds with an evident sense of suffering: "your own wickedness punishes you, your rebellions punish you, recognize and see how bad and bitter things it is to have abandoned the Lord your God.”

Father Leopoldo knew all this and for this reason he wanted to take everyone to heaven according to the happy expression of Saint Francis of Assisi and his hand extended towards sinners, he did not get tired even a few minutes before his death in fact to the one who assisted him on the last night of 29 to 30 July 1942 and who had the courage to ask him to confess it, Father Leopoldo promptly replied "here I am" in imitation of Jesus, he spent himself for others until the last crumb of his strength. Unfortunately, this heroic charity has become rarefied today, Mother Teresa once said: "the greatest misfortune of the contemporary world is this: love is disappearing and one cannot live well in this world if love disappears".

But the question arises spontaneously: what happened to the ecumenical vocation of Saint Leopold? As he responded to the voice of God who, according to his exact words, called him to pray and to promote the return of Eastern dissidents to Catholic unity, it should be underlined that Father Leopoldo always felt in his heart the ardent desire to return to his East to live among his followers the passion and immolation for the unity of all the disciples of Jesus. This desire put him in perfect harmony with the heart of Jesus, who at the last supper with heartfelt words asked the Father for unity of all his disciples. Every Christian, to the extent that he is a true Christian, cannot fail to tune in to this desire of Jesus.

Father Leopoldo, crossed by the living echo of Jesus' prayer on 18 June 1887, when he was 21 years old and a student in Padua, felt personally called to implore from God the return of his people to the unity of the Catholic faith. But how? His heart dreamed of being able to spend himself with his people in the land of the East, doing charity, goodness and prayer as a seed of unity. But circumstances, health conditions and consequently obedience opened an unexpected path to fulfilling the vow.

The great Jewish thinker Martin Buber once said: “everything is where you are. Father Leopoldo understood it with the light of humility and his orientation became the confessional and the altar and through the meeting of confession and through the Eucharistic celebration. The fire of love fell in his heart, preparing the ground for the future embrace of his people in one people of God and so the vow pronounced way back in 1887 was fully realized. But how did things go? In the annals of the Venetian Capuchins of the year 1923 we read: "the Reverend Father Leopoldo da Castelnuovo is not successful in teaching and preaching, being a strong stutterer, of weak constitution, but in confession he exercises an extraordinary charm, and this is due to his strong culture and for the fine intuition, especially for the sanctity of life."

nd so the superiors definitively assigned him to Padua, it must have been a real internal earthquake for Father Leopoldo. But the saints make obedience explode and transform it into a stronger love, in fact Father Leopoldo declared several times: "every soul that asks for my ministry will be my orientation". Everything is where you are, you just need to know how to see it. Saint Teresa of Lisieux, who lived like Father Leopold in the narrow space of Carmel, told how she managed, through prayer imbued with love, to leave Carmel and realize the missionary ideal that was boiling in her heart to the point that without having never left Carmel, today she is proclaimed Patron of the missions.

How did it happen? In manuscript C that he wrote a few months before his death he said: simple souls do not need complicated means because I am among them. One morning during thanksgiving, Jesus gave me a simple way to understand my mission.

He made me understand these words from the Song of Songs: draw me and we will run. And Saint Teresa concludes: like a torrent that rushes into the ocean and sweeps away behind it all the things it finds in its passage, so oh my Jesus, the soul that sinks into the ocean of your love attracts with him all the treasures he possesses, that is, souls”. This is what happened for Saint Teresa, this is what happened for Father Leopoldo. Allow me an exclamation: if we could have a crumb of their faith, if we could have a crumb of the fire of love that they had in their hearts, many situations around us would melt like snow in the sun and many souls would be attracted towards the Lord together with us.

Brothers and sisters, let's not waste any more time, we have so little of it, let's follow the example of the saints!
(Homily of Cardinal Angelo Comastri which took place on the day of memory of San Leopoldo Mandic on 12 May 2014).