- Adeodato Bogdan Mandic
- Apostle of the Confession
- Apostle of Unity
- Bogdan Ivan Mandic
- Brother Leopold
- Leopoldo of Castelnuovo
Saint Leopold was a contrast between physical frailty and spiritual strength. Four foot five inches tall, and physically weak, his health became worse with age. He had a stammer, suffered abdominal pains, and was gradually deformed by chronic arthritis, making his frame stooped, his hands gnarled, and his life one of endless pain. Spiritually, Leopold Mandic was a giant, full of Christian strength. His humility and faith in God enabled him to accept his poor physical condition, and realize God‘s power – for without God he could do nothing.
Twelfth child born to Peter and Caroline Mandic. Physically malformed and delicate of health, Bogdan early showed signs of great spiritual strength and integrity. At age 16, Bogdan left Dalmatia for Italy where he became a student at the Capuchin Seraphic School at Udine, and an aspirant to the Capuchins. He applied himself to his studies, and entered the Capuchin Order as a novice on 20 April 1884 at Bassano del Grappa, taking the religious name Brother Leopold. After his Profession of Vows in May 1885, Leopold began clerical studies at Padua and Venice. Ordained in Venice on 20 September 1890.
He wanted to be a missionary in Eastern Europe, an area torn apart by religious strife, but he was denied by his superiors because of his frailty and general ill-health. Stationed at various Friaries in the Venetian Province from 1890 to 1906, including his homeland of Dalmatia, where the Italian friars had a mission. 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. In Padua he became a Confessor and Spiritual Director for almost forty years. Father Leopold encouraged many, especially the hopeless in enslavement to sin. Though he did not go to the missions, his long service in the confessional proved it to be his own apostolate. For nearly forty years, twelve hours a day, he absolved and councelled thousands of penitents, always weak but always available.
O God, source of life and love, you gave Saint Leopold a tremendous compassion for sinners and a desire for church unity. Through his prayers, grant that we may acknowledge our need of forgiveness, show love to others, and strive to bring about a living unity among Christians. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Have faith! Everything will be alright. Faith, Faith! - advice from Saint Leopold Mandic
We have in heaven the heart of a mother, The Virgin, our Mother, who at the foot of the Cross suffered as much as possible for a human creature, understands our troubles and consoles us. - Saint Leopold Mandic
Who is it, who is the one who brings us together today to celebrate in his blessed name a manifestation of Christ’s Gospel, an event inexpressible, yet clear and evident, that marvelous appearance which allows us to glimpse in the outline of a humble friar an uplifting and at the same time almost disconcerting figure?
Look! Look! Saint Francis! Do you see him? Look how poor he is, how human. It is indeed Saint Francis himself, so humble, so serene, so absorbed as to appear carried away in his own inner vision of the invisible presence of God. And yet to us and for us he remains so present, so accessible, so available that he appears to know us, to await us, to know all about us and to be able to read our hearts. Look well: he is a poor little Capuchin, he looks ill and frail and yet so strangely strong that we seem to be drawn to him spellbound. Look at him through Franciscan eyes. Do you see him? Are you astonished? Who is he? Yes, let us admit it, he is frail, popular yet true image of Jesus, of that very Jesus who speaks at once to the ineffable God, to the Father who is Lord of heaven and earth, and also to us, bound up as we are in the littleness of our suffering humanity. And what is Jesus saying through this poor little spokesman of his? Great mysteries of the infinite transcendence of God, enchanting us and being clothed in moving and enthralling language, echoing the Gospel words: “Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
But who is it, then? It is Father Leopold. Yes, the Servant of God, Father Leopold of Castelnovo, who was called Adeodato Mandic before he became a friar. Born in Dalmatia, like Saint Jerome, he surely had in his character and in his memory the sweetness of that charming land on the Adriatic coast, and in his heart, in his homelife, the goodness and piety of that sturdy nation. Born on 12 May 1866, he died in Padua, where, having become a Capuchin, he had lived most of his life, until he concluded it, on 30 July 1942, aged 76, just over thirty years ago. Here, in this case, Canon Law has been indulgent, departing from the rule which does not permit the discussion of the virtues of a Servant of God until fifty years after his death. Yet, how could his case be delayed when the voice of the people in favour of his holiness, instead of fading with the passing of time, grew ever more insistent, more well-documented and more certainly authenticated? The judgement of the Church (cfr. can. 2101), in anticipation a favourable conclusion, had to give way to the spontaneous chorus of all who had known this humble Capuchin or had experienced his marvelous intercession. So it is not only those who have benefited from his prayers who proclaim Father Leopold’s exceptional moral and spiritual worth. There are a few still living who can testify to this, saying: “I knew him. Yes, he was a holy religious, a man of God, one of those exceptional souls who at once impress their sanctity upon us.” And in the memory of those who know something of the history of the Capuchin Order there appears again the remembrance of those great friars of the past, faithful to the most strict Franciscan traditions personifying his holiness. Let us just recall one typical literary figure, well-known to all: Manzoni’s Father Cristoforo.
But no: Father Leopold was smaller in stature and perhaps also in natural talent. He was not a preacher (as a good many capable Capuchins are), he did not enjoy good health being, indeed, a very frail man. All the same we must not forget one particular point. Coming from the Levantine shore of the Adriatic, from Castelnovo on the Mouth of Cattaro, in the territory of Croatia-Montenegro-Herzegovina-Bosnia, he ever kept a faithful love for his native land event though, living in Padua, he became equally attached to the new country which welcomed him and above all to the people among whom he carried on his silent and unwearying ministry. Blessed Leopold, therefore, unites in himself this two-fold loyalty, fusing it into a symbol of friendship and brotherhood which every one of his followers must adopt. It was in this way that he fulfilled a dominant thought and theme of his life. As we all know, Blessed Leopold was “ecumenical” before his time, that is to say he dreamed and looked forward and worked without fuss for the restoration of the perfect unity of the Church which yet jealously respects the manifold ethnic differences within her fold. Such unity is dictated by her own and still more by the sacred and mysterious will of Christ who founded a Church totally imbued with the essential demand of that supreme prayer of Jesus: “Ut unum sint”, may all be one those whom the same faith, the same baptism, the same Lord, in one Spirit, a bond of peace (cf. Ephesians 4:3 fol. John 17:11-21). Oh, that Blessed Leopold may be the prophet and the intercessor of such a great grace for the Church of God!
But the very special mark of the heroism and charismatic virtue of Blessed Leopold was something else. Everyone knows it, it was his ministry in hearing confessions. The late Cardinal Larraona, then Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, in the 1962 decree regarding the Beatification of Father Leopold wrote as follows: “This was his daily routine; after saying Mass early in the morning, he used to sit in the confessional and stay there the whole day long hearing confessions. He kept this up for about forty years without any complaint.” This is, we believe, the primary reason that has won for this humble Capuchin the Beatification which we are now celebrating.
He became holy principally in the exercise of the Sacrament of Penance. Thank God, many splendid accounts of this aspect of the sanctity of the new Blessed have already appeared. We have only to admire and thank the Lord for offering to the Church in these days such a singular figure of a minister of the sacramental grace of Penance. Thus, on the one hand, priests are reminded of the capital importance of this ministry both as regards instruction and its incomparable spiritual good, whilst on the other hand there is a reminder for the faithful, whether fervent or lukewarm or indifferent, what a providential and marvelous help this individual and auricular Confession still is today. In fact, more than ever today here is a source of grace and of peace, a school of Christian living, and incomparable comfort in the earthly pilgrimage towards eternal happiness.
May Blessed Leopold strengthen souls eager for spiritual advancement to assiduous frequenting of Confession which some critics, certainly not inspired by mature Christian wisdom, would like to see relegated among the outmoded forms of living, and personal spirituality. May our new Blessed succeed in calling to this tribunal of Penance – severe, it is true, but not less a sweet haven of comfort, of interior truth, of resurrection to grace and of training in the therapy of Christian authenticity – many, many souls dulled by the deceits of present day manners and make them feel for themselves by the secret and inspiring vigour of the Gospel through speaking with the Father, through meeting with Christ and being caught up in the Holy Spirit. So may they be renewed in their concern for the good of others, for justice and for worthiness of living.
To you Franciscan Brothers of the Capuchin Order: our thanks for having given to the Church and to the world a typical example of your strict, friendly and wholesome school of Christianity as faithful to itself as it is able to rouse up again the joy of prayer and goodness in the hearts of the people.
To you sons of Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the whole of Yugoslavia: honour to you for having brought forth in our time such a lofty and yet human example of your Catholic tradition.
And to you Paduans: we wish you to honour, beside your own Saint Anthony, this not dissimilar Franciscan brother so that from them both you may hand on to the next generations the Christian and human virtues already so splendidly enshrined in your history. - Pope Paul VI‘s homily at the beatification of Father Leopold