St. Leonard was born in the Italian town of Porto Maurizio in 1676. After training in Rome, he became a Franciscan priest. He later restored the friary of San Francesco del Monte at Miniato near Florence. Many friars joined the community, becoming known for walking through the Tuscan countryside to preach in churches and field. In addition, they fortified themselves spiritually with an annual solitary retreat for prayer and asceticism. They were known for their austerities and holy lives.
In 1730 St. Leonard was appointed Guardian of the church of St. Bonaventure in Rome. For six years he preached to soldiers, sailors, convicts and galley slaves as well as preaching at parish revivals. From 1736 he preached in Umbria, Genoa and the Marches of Ancona, often talking to large crowds in the open air. He preached the Way of the Cross, setting up 500 stations across Italy, many of which are still popular today. Many Catholic churches still have stations of the Cross on their walls: a tribute to the influence of Franciscan preaching. Preaching widely, St. Leonard travelled as far as Corsica, besides central and southern Italy.
In 1750, a Jubilee Year, Leonard established Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum, at Rome, where during the first centuries following the Christ, many Christians met their deaths. After preaching extensively in Lucca, his strength failed and he died in Rome at St. Bonaventure in 1751. He was canonized in 1867. The "Diary" (Diario) of his missions is written by Fra Diego da Firenze. His writings have been translated into diverse languages.
His works include: "Via Sacrea spianata ed illuminata" (the Way of the Cross simplified and explained), "Il Tesoro Nascosto" (on the Holy Mass), "Proponimenti", or resolutions for the attainment of higher Christian perfection.
St. Leonard is commemorated by the Catholic Church on November 27, even while Franciscans commemorate him on November 26.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.