St. Leonard of Port Maurice
by Emily Mary Shapcote, 1877
St. Leonard, who, on account of his innumerable missions, has received the title of the Apostle of Rome and of Italy, may most justly be called the Apostle of the Most Holy Sacrament and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was born at Port Maurice on the 20th December 1673, and was baptised by the name of Paul Jerome. His father, an honourable well-to-do citizen, was also a God-fearing man, who, in order to shelter his chastity while owner of a little packet-ship, made a vow--which he punctiliously kept--of never permitting a woman to sail therein.Ejaculation of St. Leonard of Port Maurice
Under the eyes of this pious parent Paul grew up to be a God-fearing youth. At the age of twenty-one he entered the Franciscan Order, already far advanced in virtue and knowledge. Being ordained priest he fell ill, and could find no means of recovery. At this juncture he turned to the Blessed Mother of God, and with most fervent prayer he promised her to devote his life entirely to missionary work, and in this manner to the honour of God and the conversion of sinners, if she would obtain of her Son for him the gift of restored health. His prayer was granted. In a short time after he became so strong and healthy that he was able to undertake any work, however difficult.
In the year 1708, at the age of thirty-two, he began his mission work. For forty-four years he travelled through all villages, cities, islands, even the entire kingdom of Italy, in order to sow the good seed of the Word of God. He passed through the roughest country amidst snow and rain, and even to the latest years of his life, with naked feet. He wore always the worst of clothes, fasted continually, and permitted himself but little repose on a hard bed. He entertained the greatest mistrust of self, and submitted himself at all times to the commands of others. But all the more he trusted in the Lord, saying continually, 'O my Jesus, mercy!' Innumerable were the conversions which, by the grace of God, he effected. Abuses were rectified, manners improved, devotion and the fear of God increased. He used to say, 'My only deadly foe is mortal sin.' This one enemy of the soul he persecuted incredibly, both in himself and in others, by prayer, penance, mortification, and his wonderful ardent preaching. It was as a special means of resisting and overcoming this great enemy of man's salvation that he regarded the devotion to the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. This devotion he himself had practised from his tenderest years.
When he commenced his missionary career he made this Sacred Mystery to be the aim and centre ef all his endeavours, and strove to honour it on every occasion by inward and outward acts of faith and love, and to further this devotion by every means in his power in the hearts of others.
His first visit when he arrived at any place was to the Blessed Sacrament. Daily he offered Holy Mass with such intense devotion that all present who assisted thereat were edified. In order to prepare himself worthily for this--the most awful act of priestly functions --he confessed every day, sometimes even twice in the day. Everything, from the hour of Compline until that of Mass the following morning, he offered in intention, as a preparation for that Most Divine Sacrifice. In the sacred observance itself he most scrupulously fulfilled the very smallest of the prescribed ceremonies; he received Holy Communion daily by way of Viaticum. Every morning he heard as many Masses as his work permitted, and at the Elevation it was his custom to make an intention of being present at all the Masses offered that day throughout the whole world, in order to present them to the Divine Majesty.
Holy Mass he called the sun of Christendom, the soul of the faith, the central point of the Catholic religion, towards which all the customs, ceremonies, and the other holy Sacraments tend, and the circumference containing within itself all that is good and beautiful which may be found in the Church of God. He never approached the altar without offering to the Eternal Father three-and-thirty times the Precious Blood of Jesus, in honour of the three-and-thirty years of His life, in order to gain the grace of purity of heart, which should never be stained by the smallest spot.
In all his missions he impressed with fiery words of zeal upon his hearers the duty of attending the Blessed Sacrament with the greatest possible solemnity when being carried to the sick. In consequence of his exhortations, in many places where the Holy Viaticum had become totally disregarded it was a fact that after each of his missions it was accompanied in the most glorious manner. This was specially observable at Ancona. Here his exhortations had such effect that from that time the burgesses hurried in couples to follow the procession whenever the All-Holy was being carried to the sick. On some occasions five hundred wax lights might be counted in these processions.
This, and the devotion and fear which he taught the people to entertain towards the Blessed Sacrament, was followed by solid establishment in the faith and divine consolation to all who assisted in it. In one place this pious custom had fallen into such disuse, because the people were ashamed of carrying the baldachin, that the priest was in the habit of waiting a considerable time, until here and there a good man could be found to bear the canopy. The pious missioner spoke much and warmly on the subject; and, after considerable pains, the people were so convinced of the greatness of the honour of thus accompanying the God of heaven and earth, that on the first opportunity the whole village collected together in order to follow the Blessed Sacrament, and there was even a holy strife amongst them as to which should have the privilege of bearing the canopy. It has continued so ever since in that village. Also at Minerbio, in the province of Ferrara, the whole people turned out of doors, carrying wax lights, in order to accompany the Blessed Sacrament to a poor person whose hut lay ten minutes' walk from the church. In the same way he carried his point at Ochiobello in Ferrara, where he induced bishops and other persons of rank to accompany the Blessed Sacrament.
He had it specially at heart to spread the devotion of the Perpetual Adoration, which was already founded in Rome, and in other places besides. How great was his zeal in propagating this devotion maybe gathered from the fact that before his death he had the satisfaction of seeing it introduced into one hundred and thirty parishes. He succeeded also, though indirectly, in introducing it into the far-distant kingdom of Mexico. In short, from his earliest childhood until his dying day our Saint was full of unbounded love for Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament.
Being greatly advanced in years, the Saint undertook, by command of the Pope, a mission into the Bolognese Mountains. He commenced this arduous work in the midst of such great bodily suffering that he not unfrequently fainted on the chancel floor, and was unable to finish preaching. Many times during this mission the servant of God said it would be his last. Being recalled to Rome by the Pope he set off on his journey, though he was in his last sickness. Being come to Foligno he desired to say Holy Mass. His companion, perceiving his great weakness, begged him not to attempt it; the holy man replied, with the deepest emotion, 'Brother, one Holy Mass is worth more than all the treasures of the world!'
So he began the Holy Sacrifice, which he could not conclude without the greatest difficulty. Being arrived in Rome he was carried into the infirmary, where he confessed at once and received Viaticum. After this he spent some time in calm recollection alone with God. When the physician arrived he begged him, with childlike simplicity, not to order him to eat fleshmeat. The doctor, on finding the pulse nearly gone, ordered him a reviving draught. When the servant of God had taken it he thanked him for his love; but went on in a half-whisper to himself, saying, 'O, that men would do as much for their souls as for their bodies!' When night came he desired that no one should sit up with him but the infirmarian. During the night the latter heard him uttering glowing acts of love to God, and appearing to converse with the Blessed Virgin, as though she were present. The infirmarian approached his bed, and saw the face of the Saint glowing with celestial fire. They hastened to give him the last anointing; immediately after which, and without the slightest movement, he fell sweetly asleep in Jesus on November 27, 1751.
My Jesus Mercy
(Indulgence of 300 days)
Method of Assisting at Mass
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
Divide the Mass into four parts. In the first part, which will be from the beginning to the Gospel, humble yourself with Jesus, and, sinking into the abyss of your own nothingness, confess sincerely that you are n most miserable nothing before the majesty of God; and thus humbled interiorly, and also with a composed and modest exterior, say:OFFERING TO BE MADE AT MASS
Ah! my God, I adore Thee. I acknowledge Thee for my Lord and Master of my soul. I protest that all I am and have are thy gifts. And because thy majesty merits infinite honour and homage, I, who am a poor, miserable creature, utterly incapable of paying the great debt which I owe to Thee, offer to Thee the humiliations and homage which Jesus pays to Thee on the altar. What Jesus does, I also intend to do. I humble and prostrate myself with Him before Thy majesty. I adore Thee with the same adoration which Jesus offers to Thee. I am filled with joy and delight in reflecting that Jesus gives Thee, for me, infinite honour and homage.
Repeat many internal acts of this kind. You need not adhere to the words; it is better to use the language which your own devotion will dictate. Oh, how fully will you pay your first debt by assisting at the first part of the Mass in this manner, In the second part, which will be from the Gospel to the Elevation, you shall discharge your second obligation. Reflecting for a moment on the enormity of your sins, and on the immense debt which you have contracted by them towards the divine justice, say, with a humble heart:
Behold, my God, the traitor that has so often rebelled against Thee. Ah, with a sorrowful heart, and with all the affections of my soul, I abhor and detest my most grievous sms, and I offer for them the same satisfaction which Jesus presents to Thee on the altar. I offer to Thee all the merits of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, Jesus entirely, God and man, who is here immolated again for me. And since my Jesus Himself is, on this altar, my mediator and my advocate, and since, with His most precious blood, He implores pardon for me, I unite with the cry of His blood, and supplicate mercy for all my sins. The blood of Jesus cries for mercy; and my sorrowful heart also implores mercy. Ah! my dear God, if my tears do not move Thee, let, at least, the groans of my Jesus excite Thy pity. Why should He not obtain for me that mercy which He merited for the whole human race, upon the cross? Yes, I hope that, for the sake of that most precious blood, Thou wilt pardon all my most grievous sins, which I will continue to bewail till my last breath.
Repeat many such acts of true contrition, and rest assured that you shall thus most fully discharge the debt which you have contracted by so many grievous sins.
In the third part, from the Elevation to the Communion, reflecting on the great and important benefits received from God, you shall, in return for them, offer to Him a gift of infinite value, that is, the body and blood of Christ. Invite all the angels and saints to thank God in the following, or in some other similar manner:
Behold me, O my most loving God, loaded with the general and particular benefits which Thou hast bestowed, and wilt bestow upon me, in time and eternity. I know that Thy mercies to me have been and are infinite. But I am ready to pay Thee for all, even to the last farthing. Behold the tribute of my gratitude. The payment which I offer for all Thy goodness is this divine blood, this most precious body, this innocent victim, which I present to Thee by the hands of thy priest. I am certain that this oblation is sufficient to pay for all the gifts Thou hast conferred upon me; this gift of infinite value, is an equivalent for all the favours I have ever received, or now receive from Thee. Ah! ye holy angels, and all ye blessed spirits, help me to thank my God; and in thanksgiving for His great benefits, offer to Him not only this Mass, but all the Masses that are now being celebrated throughout the whole world, that His loving goodness may be fully recompensed for all the graces which He has bestowed, and is to bestow upon me now and for eternity. Amen.
Oh! how pleasing to our good God will be such an affectionate thanksgiving! What satisfaction will be afforded to Him by this sole oblation, which, because of Its infinite value, has greater efficacy than all other offerings!
In the fourth part, from the Communion to the end of the Mass, ask with great confidence the divine grace, knowing that during that time Jesus is united with you, and prays and supplicates for you. Dilate your heart, then, and ask not things of little value, but great graces; for great indeed is the oblation of the divine Son, which you present to the Father. Say to Him with a humble heart:
My dear God, I acknowledge that I am utterly unworthy of Thy favours; I confess my infinite unworthiness, and that, for my manifold and grievous sins, I do not deserve to be heard. But how canst Thou refuse to hear Thy divine Son, who, on this altar, prays for me, and offers for me His blood and His life? Ah! my most loving God, hear the prayers of this my great advocate, and, for His sake, grant, me all the graces which Thou knowest to be necessary to secure the great affair of my eternal salvation. I am now encouraged to ask of Thee a general pardon of all my sins, and the gift of final perseverance. Trusting in the prayers of my Jesus, I ask of Thee, O my God, all virtues in an heroic degree, and all the efficacious helps necessary to make me truly a saint. I ask of Thee the conversion of all sinners, and particularly those who are related to me. Amen.
Pray, pray for yourself, and for all poor sinners; pray with groat confidence, and be assured that your prayers, united with the prayers of Jesus, shall be heard.
But pray particularly for sorrow for your sins, for the gift of perseverance and of divine love; and recommend to God, in a special manner, your relatives, sinners, and the souls in purgatory.
Eternal Father, I offer to Thee the sacrifice which Thy beloved Son Jesus made of Himself upon the cross, and now renews upon this altar; and I offer it to Thee in the name of all creatures, together with the Masses which have been celebrated, and which shall be celebrated, in the whole world, in order to adore Thee, and to give Thee the honour which Thou dost deserve; to render to Thee due thanks for Thy innumerable benefits, to appease Thy anger for our sins, and to give Thee due satisfaction for them; to entreat Thee also for myself, for the Church, for the whole world, and for the blessed souls in purgatory. Amen.