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NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church and our Holy Father. This "little work" is purely a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - May 2016: Saint Leopoldo Mandic

St. Leopoldo Mandic
Apostle of the Confessional ~Feast: May 12th 

Originally from an obscure town in Croatia, Bogdan Mandic was born on May 12, 1866, to a large family of pious disposition.  From his earliest childhood, he was sickly and small in stature.  In fact, in adulthood, he never grew to more than 4 feet, 5 inches tall – a small man who later would prove to be a GIANT, as far as faith and sanctity were concerned.  At 16 he left his homeland for Italy, where he studied at a Franciscan-run school in Udine.  In April 1884, in Bassano del Grappa, he was accepted as a novice with the Capuchin Order and professed religious vows the following year, changing his name to “Leopoldo”.  He then went on to study for the priesthood and was ordained in Venice on September 20, 1890.

From the start, Fr. Leopoldo’s intent was to become a missionary in Eastern Europe where religious unrest was severely prevalent but his superiors felt it imprudent for him to pursue that course given chronic health issues (the young Capuchin suffered from a life-long digestive disorder) and a stutter that impeded his effectiveness as a preacher.  Instead, from 1890 to 1906 he was assigned to various houses of his order in northern Italy, until he was permanently assigned to a monastery in Padua just a few blocks away from the heavily-visited Basilica of St Anthony, the city's famed patron.  It was in this city that Fr. Leopoldo’s true mission as a fisher of souls became manifest, although not in the manner in which he had originally anticipated.

Slowly, but surely, Fr. Leopoldo endeared himself to the inhabitants of Padua. His unusually small stature made him an odd stand-out among his brethren, but once people got past his appearance, they found him to be naturally gentle, humorous, and quite simply - likeable.  He also had a special way of putting people at ease, even while in the confessional, so people started coming to him regularly for absolution and spiritual guidance… and that’s when little by little, his regular penitents began noticing the uncanny way in which he would remind them of forgotten sins, or accurately advise them about situations that had yet to occur in their lives.

The incorrupt right hand
of St. Leopoldo, with which
he blessed and absolved
countless sinners.
His reported mystical gifts of reading hearts and foreseeing the future added to Fr. Leopoldo’s popularity and soon the increasing demand for him to hear confessions resulted in crowds flocking to the monastery to speak with him.  So for nearly forty years, his daily routine consisted of him sitting in his cramped little cell welcoming penitents, hearing their confessions, and dispensing spiritual counsel for up to 14 hours each day!*** As he grew older the routine became a real sacrifice for him as he suffered terribly from arthritis and a curvature of the spine… but still the diminutive priest continued this daily ministry out of his burning desire to reconcile sinners with their merciful God. 

When Fr. Leopoldo’s holy death occurred on July 30, 1942, the entire city of Padua and beyond paid their respects to the beloved confessor. Pope Paul VI had the honor of declaring him a Blessed on May 2, 1976, and Pope John Paul II declared him a Saint on October 16, 1983.  Appropriately, because of his devoted ministry with penitent sinners, St. Leopoldo Mandic is today popularly acclaimed as the “Apostle of the Confessional”.  

*** NOTE:  In his lifetime, St. Leopoldo often predicted that bombs would fall upon Padua after his death.  He stated that the monastery would be directly hit but with no casualties... and that the only part of the monastery that would survive completely intact was his cell (right photo), where God had generously dispensed his Divine Mercy through countless confessions. The Saint's words were accurately fulfilled when during air strike bombings on Padua during World War II, the monastery and the adjoining church were severely damaged.  The Saint's humble cell was indeed miraculously spared from destruction, along with a statue of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, that was found unscathed among the wreckage of the church.  St. Leopoldo had a particular devotion to this statue of the Blessed Mother.

A Reflection
"God's mercy is beyond all expectation."  ~ Words of St. Leopoldo Mandic

A Short Prayer
Lord, take away our natural tendency to be intimidated by the confessional… but rather, draw our souls to it with the realization that it is truly a source of mercy, grace, and healing for our minds, bodies, and souls.  Amen.

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