An Ave Maria Meditations Encore
July 30th: St. Leopoldo Mandic A Saint of the Confessional and a Saint for the Cause of Unity
He wrote: “The august Mother of God is in truth co-redemptress of the human race and source of all grace. In fact on the one hand we have in her the most perfect obedience to God’s laws and, after her Son, the most perfect innocence: He impeccable by His nature, she impeccable by grace. On the other hand we see her as Our Lady of Sorrows, as He was the Man of Sorrows. If, therefore, by eternal decree of God, the Immaculate Virgin was the moral victim of sorrow as her Son was the physical victim, and if God’s avenging justice found no shadow of fault in them, it follows inevitably that they were paying the price of the sins of others, that is of mankind.”
St. Leopoldo had a great love of Our Lady, a love that sustained him though his life of suffering, was light to his mind and warmth and comfort to his heart. Not even those who lived with him could describe accurately the extent and depth of this love. The tone of when he spoke of her, his expression when he looked at a picture or statue of her, cannot be described: one had to experience them to the ardor of his love. “Fr. Leopoldo,” someone once remarked to him, “you have heard so much that nothing can surprise you now?” “On the contrary, my son, I am constantly astonished by the way people put their immortal souls in jeopardy for the most frivolous and futile reasons.”
Fr. Leopoldo lived the Mass and always tried to instill into others a vivid faith in what he rightly considered to be the source of all grace and blessings. Probably every priest who came to him to confession was frequently exhorted to celebrate Mass well and to make central point of his spiritual life. “I recommend daily Communion,” he wrote to a penitent, “You’ll see what a marvelous effect it has. Jesus told the Jews that if they kept His commandments they would know the truth, and the truth would set them free. This truth is none other than the grace of the Holy Ghost, the grace promised by Christ to the Samaritan woman under the simile of the living water. Let us therefore approach God, Who is Truth and Light, and we shall be illuminated. Before the splendor of this Light, satan, who is darkness, will be put to flight, and the kingdom of Gad and the Gospel of Christ will be safe within us.”
Great was the mystic joy with which Fr. Leopoldo held the Sacred Host in his hands and consumed It. But this did not last long. After Mass he folded his arms across his breast as though trying to retain the treasure of which he had partaken, but before long the Sacramental Species lost their identity and the Real Presence dissolved with them. Jesus, truly present in Body and Blood was, however, not far off: He was always still there in the tabernacle, and it was to the tabernacle that Fr. Leopoldo now turned his attention, never turning it away.
Whatever he did during the day, wherever he might go, his heart remained in adoration before God. He was constantly aware of call of the tabernacle and the necessity of it in the spiritual life. At any time when he was free of other duties, he went immediately to the Blessed Sacrament altar and plunged into adoration. In spite of acute arthritic pains in his legs, he always knelt upright without the support of the bench, and very often on the bare floor. He remained completely immobile, like a statue, and his face, turned to the tabernacle Even in his genuflections when passing before the altar, one could see that here was no routine gesture, no everyday acknowledgement of a belief however firmly held, but a genuine, almost spontaneous act of adoration.
From his great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament stemmed a desire to ensure that, as far as he was concerned, everything to do with the tabernacle should be perfect. Aware that in the Holy Eucharist was the inexhaustible source of all good, Fr. Leopoldo, moved by his ardent charity, did everything in his power to persuade others to approach the Blessed Sacrament. He often included a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the penances he gave, and was always recommending frequent Communion as a sovereign aid to perfection.
As Christ our Redeemer redeemed mankind through His sufferings and cross and death, so He wishes his followers to apply His merits to redeemed mankind by use of the same means of suffering, sorrow and sacrifice, united with and sanctified by His sufferings as priest and eternal victim. Every member of the faithful is called upon to cooperate with the divine plan in this manner for the benefit of mankind, for to all of them was given the command to pray one for another and to be a cause of salvation one to another.
Physically malformed and delicate of health, the saint early showed early signs of great spiritual strength and integrity. He entered the Capuchin Franciscan Order and was ordained on September 20th, 1884. He wanted to be a missionary to Eastern Europe, torn apart by much religious strife, but was denied by his superiors because of his frailty and general ill-health. Posted to Padua, Italy in 1906 where, except for a year spent in a prison camp in World War I because he would not renounce his Croat nationality, he remained for the rest of his life. He became a Confessor and Spiritual Director for almost forty years.
The life of Saint Leopold Mandic is a contrast between his physical frailty and his spiritual strength. Four foot five inches tall, and born physically weak, his health became worse as he grew older. He had a stammer, suffered abdominal pains, and was gradually deformed by chronic arthritis, making his frame stooped, his hands gnarled, and causing much pain. He offered his suffering for unity in the Church and for souls. His strong faith was communicated to others when they came to Fr. Leopold for spiritual advice. He would exclaim: “Have faith! Everything will be alright. Faith, Faith!”
He was truly an apostle; though he did not go to the mission territory, his long service in the confessional proved to be his own distinct apostolate. For nearly forty years, twelve hours a day, he received, counseled, and absolved thousands of penitents, working as a herald of God’s love and forgiveness. And his human weakness highlights the gift of spiritual strength which enabled him to carry out this untiring apostolate. Early in his Capuchin life, Leopold Mandic was asked to surrender his missionary aspirations and personal preference, and to work as Confessor and Spiritual Advisor. Looking back on this decision, he once said: “I am like a bird in a cage, but my heart is beyond the seas.”
St. Leopoldo was born Mary 12, 1866 at Castelnuovo, Dalmatia (Bosnia-Hercogovina) and died on July 30, 1942 at the Friary in Padua, Italy of esophageal cancer. He was beatified in 1976 and canonized in 1983.