Modern Day Saint

Saint Leopold Mandic

Born in Croatia on May 12, 1866, Bogdan, the twelfth child of Peter and Caroline Mandic, was frail and diminutive in stature. Throughout his life he was plagued with a persistent stomach ailment and poor eyesight and endured the pain and deformity of chronic arthritis.  Nevertheless, he became a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

The life of St. Leopold Mandic stands forever as an example of unquenchable, indomitable faith. Despite his physical ailments, he showed early signs of great spiritual strength and unquestioning faith.  At age 16, he left his home and traveled to Italy to study at the Capuchin Seraphic School in Udine.  Upon completion of his studies, he entered the Capuchin order as a novice in 1884, taking the name Brother Leopold.  He was ordained in Venice on September 20, 1890.

Fr. Leopold’s childhood ambition had been to work with the Orthodox Christians to promote reunion of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.  His health which grew worse year by year never permitted this.  He was unable to preach because his voice was too weak to be heard in an assembly, and his speech was marred by a stammer.  His spine was twisted cruelly by arthritis, and his hands were gnarled.  From 1890 to 1906 he was stationed in various friaries in the Venetian province, and in 1906 he was posted to Padua where he lived the rest of his life except for one year when he was imprisoned during World War I because he refused to renounce his Croat nationality.  It was in Padua where he assumed the apostolate of Confessor and Spiritual Director for which he is best known.

Spending 12 hours a day in the confessional for nearly 40 years, Fr. Leopold counseled and absolved thousands of people.  His message to the penitents was always, “Have Faith! Everything will be all right. Faith, Faith!”  His own faith in the goodness and mercy of God seemed to grow out of his physical infirmity and illuminate the soul within.  He dispensed hope and encouragement to people bound up in sin and inspired them to follow his example of selfless and joyful surrender to the will of God.

Fr. Leopold stands as a model of Franciscan spirituality and humility.  He reminded himself, “Remember that you have been sent for the salvation of people, not because of your own merits, since it is the Lord Jesus and not you who died for the salvation of souls. . .”

On September 22, 1940, Fr. Leopold celebrated his Golden Jubilee of the Priesthood.  His health, never good, declined further, and he died on July 30, 1942.  Veneration of his memory began soon after, and he was beatified by Pope Paul VI on May 2, 1976.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1983.

Small, weak and sickly in physical appearance, Fr. Leopold was a giant in his strength of faith, his compassion and his devotion to God.

Jim Fritz



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