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Name That Saint: Leopold

Name That Saint: Leopold of Castelnuovo

St. Leopold shows us that even when our best dreams are shattered, we can find creative ways of living them in the reality God gives us.

St. Leopold Mandić
St. Leopold Mandić

God frequently saves the best for last. On May 12, 1866, the last of twelve children of Peter and Dragica Mandić was born and given the name Bogdon (which means “the God-given one“). Bogdon was a sickly child and suffered throughout his life from stomach ailments; a stutter and soft voice; poor eyesight; and arthritis. He was also small in stature, standing at a mere 4’ 5.”

But, he was huge in compassion and humility.

Born and raised in Croatia, his life’s desire was to unite the Eastern and Western Churches. He believed the best way to do that was by joining the Franciscans and becoming a missionary. So at the age of 16, Bogdan entered the Capuchins in Italy and was given the name Leopold. After his ordination, he asked to go to the Capuchin mission in his homeland, but his superiors denied his request. He didn’t have the health for missionary work—or the voice for preaching.

Instead, he remained in the Province of Venice, Italy, where he taught Patristics and the Croatian language to the Capuchin seminarians. For seven years, Fr. Leopold lived a facet of his dream by instilling in his students a great love for the unification of East and West.

During World War I, he refused to renounce his Croatian nationality and was imprisoned for a year. Upon his release, his superiors sent him to Padua, Italy, where he would spend the rest of his life in a small room hearing confessions. The room was sparse and poorly furnished, and it did little to shield him from the weather. During the winter, the cold was piercing, and in the summer, the heat was oppressive. But for 40 years, the mercy of God penetrated this tiny spot as Fr. Leopold heard confessions for 12 to 16 hours a day.

This was in an era when penances were not simply praying three “Hail Mary’s.” They were rigorous. However, Fr. Leopold was known for his gentleness, so people would line up for hours to have him hear their confession. His confreres criticized him for being too easy on his penitents. His reply: “…if the Lord wants to accuse me of showing too much leniency toward sinners, I’ll tell him that it was He who gave me this example, and I haven’t even died for the salvation of souls as He did. … I give my penitents only small penances because I do the rest myself.”

While he couldn’t change his circumstances, he could change his way of achieving his goal. So making a pact with God, he resolved that each soul who came to him in Confession would be his “East.” In essence, he united East and West by uniting souls to God through Confession.

Leopold was also deeply devoted to our Blessed Mother who he called “my holy boss.” He started his days by celebrating Mass at the side altar of the Virgin Mary. Later, he visited the sick and returned to his small room to hear confessions.

During World War II, the church and part of the friary where he lived were bombed and destroyed, but his room was untouched. He had actually predicted that, saying, “The church and the friary will be hit by the bombs, but not this little cell. Here God exercised so much mercy for people, it must remain as a monument to God’s goodness.”

Fr. Leopold died in Padua from esophageal cancer on July 30, 1942. After he received the Sacrament of the Sick, his friars sang the Salve Regina. When they sang the line, “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” Leopold died.

In 1976, Pope St. Paul VI beatified him, and in 1983, Pope St. John Paul II canonized him. He’s the patron saint of cancer sufferers and confession. His feast day is May 12 (July 30 in the Roman martyrology).


St. Leopold, pray for us.

“We work with our bodies here on earth, but our souls should always be in the presence of God.” ~ St. Leopold Mandić

Learn more about our saintly family

Attribution: Morton1905, Flickr, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Attribution: gnuckx, Flickr, Attribution-CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication


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