Tag Archives: Franciscans

This great preacher initiated the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception and is known as the Saint of the Stations of the Cross

Leonard of Port Maurice                                               www.youtube.com

By Larry Peterson

Domenico Casanova was a ship captain, and he and his wife, Anna Maria Benza, lived in Port Maurice, a seaport near Genoa. On December 20, 1676, Anna gave birth to a son, and they named him Paul Jerome Casanova. Paul’s father was a devout Catholic and took the responsibility of teaching his four children the faith to heart,  using kindly diligence to teach them. Eventually, three of his sons entered the Franciscan Order, and his daughter became a nun.

When Paul was thirteen years old, he was sent to live with his uncle, Agostino, in Rome. This was done so Paul could study at the Jesuit Roman College located there. He was a very bright student and began the study of medicine. However, one day he visited the church connected to the Franciscan monastery of St. Bonaventure in Rome. He heard the choir singing, “Converte nos Deus, salutaris noster!” (convert us, O God, our salvation)!”

These words moved Paul, and he believed they were a call from heaven above to serve God. He decided against medicine and told his uncle his intentions. His uncle would not hear of this and sent him away. Paul was undeterred, and in 1697 he managed to join the Friars Minors. On October 2, 1697,  he received the habit and took the name, Brother Leonard. He went on to complete his studies at St. Bonaventure’s and was ordained a priest.

Leonard desperately wanted to go to China as a missionary and convert “pagans.” But he had health issues which included a delicate constitution and a  bleeding ulcer. He was sent to the monastery of the Franciscan Observants where he remained for four years until his health returned. There was a point where they all thought Leonard would die. But it is said that the Blessed Virgin interceded, and Leonard suddenly recovered.

He returned to ministry as a local preacher in the surrounding parishes. Leonard had such burning love of Jesus and Mary, combined with deep humility,  frequent acts of penance, and an unending charity to his neighbor that it came forth in his preaching, and soon, he had a reputation as one of the great preachers of the day.

Friar Leonard immersed himself in his new work as a parish missionary. He would soon be traveling all throughout Italy and Corsica preaching to the parishioners in different places. Italy was known for its lawlessness and danger, but Leonard was committed and, although often fearful of impending danger, looked it straight in the eye and moved from town to town.

Leonard’s austere life, his practice of continually doing penance and his constant prayer and innate humility, was apparent in his preaching. It was so powerful and forthright that he converted countless sinners bringing many back to and into the faith. He developed a following of missionary preachers and even had a retreat house built for them outside Florence. This was a haven for spiritual renewal, and here they could go and refresh and prepare themselves for the assignments ahead.

Back in Rome, Father Leonard founded several confraternities, including the Confraternity of the Sacred Heart. Everywhere he went, he taught people to say, “My Jesus, Mercy.” He mainly preached on Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the importance and power of the Stations of the Cross. For forty-three years he set up the Stations at 571 locations, including the Roman Colosseum. He had such love for the stations that today he is known as the Saint of the Stations of the Cross.

His most significant work might be considered his writings and preaching about the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. He continually fostered devotion to the Immaculate Conception and insisted it should be proclaimed a dogma of faith. He attributed all his health and longevity to the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin. When Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of faith in 1854, much of his decision was based upon the work and words of Leonard of Port Maurice.

Pope Benedict XIV held Father Leonard in high regard and begged him to not die in any other city but Rome. This Leonard did on November 26, 1751. He was 74 years old. St. Alphonsus Ligouri called Leonard the “great missionary of the eighteenth century.”

Numerous miracles followed his passing, and Pope Pius VI, who had known him, beatified him in 1796. Pope Pius IX canonized Leonard on June 29, 1867. Pope Pius XI named St. Leonard of Port Maurice as the patron saint of all parish missionaries.

St. Leonard of Port Maurice, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Peter of Alcantara—This little know Franciscan mentored none other than St. Teresa of Avila

Peter of Alcantara                            en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Peter of Alcantara was born in 1499 in the Province of Caceres in Extremadura, Spain. He was named after his father, Peter Gravita, who was the governor of Alacantara. His mom was from a noble family who came from Sanabia. Already as a child, Peter displayed an exceptional gift of prayer, and at times he was so absorbed it was if he was in a trance.  During those times, neither his parents nor their servants would be able to get the boy to respond to them.

When Peter was sixteen, he had already decided to be a Franciscan. It was during this time that his father sent him off to the University in Salamanca. Peter, deeply devout and pious even as a teenager, was seriously tempted during his early days at the university. The opportunity to lead a life of comfort and pleasure was in front of him.

He had to choose which it would be; humility, prayer, and penance or the things of the world. His answer was given to him as he was on his way to the monastery at Monjaresz. Peter came to a stream that had been swollen with floodwaters from the heavy rains. He had no way to cross to the other side, so he knelt down and asked God for help.

With his eyes closed in prayer, Peter prayed and prayed. When he opened his eyes he was on the other side of the rushing river. Peter knew that he had been given a sign that he must follow his vocation. The young man was thrilled because this event erased any doubt he may have had about what God wanted him to do. He distributed whatever inheritance he had to the poor and became a Franciscan friar. He was twenty-two years old.

Once he became part of the order, he gave himself up completely to God. He began to develop a life of daily mortification, penance, and frequent fasting. In fact, he monitored his natural senses and desires so carefully that when asked what the inside of his church looked like, he did not know. Peter was sent to found a new community at Badajoz.

He was ordained a priest in 1524, and the following year was appointed a Guardian at St. Mary of the Angels in Old Castile. The self-sacrifice and mortification he was practicing were intense. He wore an iron belt with sharp points that pierced his flesh. He refused to sleep more than an hour and a half a day and would do this while sitting on the floor.

On April 14, 1562, Peter wrote a letter to Teresa of Avila. He knew in his heart that God had chosen her for great things and he advised her to found her first monastery at Avila. Theresa responded to Peter and the monastery was established on August 24, 1562. Much of what is known about Peter of Alcantara has been taken from the writings of Teresa of Avila. She even confirmed that Peter would only eat once every three days. She wrote that he sometimes would go a week without eating. His regimen of offering himself to God was extraordinary, to say the least.

Teresa and Peter became close friends, and the priest became her mentor and counsel. She knew that he was also of God, and she wrote that the gift of miracles and prophecy he possessed were heaven-sent.  She credits Peter with her success in the reformation of the Carmelite Order. Peter also had another gift; he was a great preacher. He loved to preach to the poor, and they loved to listen because he had a unique way of expressing compassion and understanding to the lives they were enduring. None other than St. Francis Borgia wrote to him, “You remarkable success (as a Preacher) is a special comfort to me.”

Peter of Alcantara, in his efforts to please and imitate his Savior, lived a life of intense poverty and austerity. He traveled throughout Spain preaching the Gospel while eating and drinking a bare minimum to stay functioning. He wrote a Treatise on Prayer and Meditation which is considered a masterpiece by both St. Teresa of Avila and  St. Francis de Sales. He was often seen levitating and in ecstasy while in prayer.

Lastly, Peter of Alcantara is the Patron Saint of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On his deathbed, he was asked if he wanted some water. He responded, “Even my Lord Jesus Christ thirsted on the Cross.”

On October 18, 1562, he died while praying. He was canonized a saint by Pope Clement IX on April 18,1622.

Saint Peter of Alcantara, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

St. Agnes of Montepulciano—St. Catherine of Siena called her, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes

St. Agnes of Montepulciano                                                   aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

The Dominican Order has five women who are canonized saints. The two best known are St. Catherine of Siena, the stigmatist and a Doctor of the Church, and St. Rose of Lima, the first woman canonized a saint from the Americas. The other three are St. Margaret of Hungary who became Empress of the Byzantine Empire, St. Catherine de Ricci, the stigmatist, and lastly, St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

St. Agnes, who may be the least known of the five, could be the most important among them. What tells us that is, it was St. Catherine of Siena, who knelt by Agnes’ incorrupt body and said, “Our Mother, the Glorious Agnes.” As Catherine bent forward to kiss the foot of Agnes, it raised up so Catherine could easily reach it. St. Agnes had died almost 300 years before that moment.

On January 28, 1268, a baby girl was born into the wealthy De Segni family, in Montepulciano, located in the Papal States (central Italy). The child was named Agnes, and from an early age, she displayed an outward and obvious devotion to God.

By the time Agnes was six years old she was asking her parents to please allow her to enter the convent. When they told her she was much too young, she pleaded with them to move closer to the convent so she could be near to it. On one occasion Agnes was traveling to Montepulciano with her mom and some of the household.  The group passed by a house that was up on a hill and was known as a place of ill repute. Suddenly, a flock of screaming crows soared down from above and attacked little Agnes.

With claws outstretched and beaks flailing away they scratched and clawed at the seven-year-old, causing her to bleed from her head and arms which she was using to cover herself. The women in the group had to fight the shrieking birds off by waving their shawls and yelling at them. The ladies knew that the evil in the nearby house did not want Agnes anywhere near it. It had been a demonic attack. Years later, Agnes would build a convent on that very site.

By the time this child was nine years old she had convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent. She was so young this was against church law but, Pope John XXI gave Agnes permission to enter the Franciscan monastery. The nuns who lived there were known as the “Sisters of the Sack” because the garments they wore were so coarse. Nine-year-old Agnes happily wore it every day.

When Agnes was fifteen, she found herself in need of another special dispensation. This time it was so she could become the abbess of a new convent in Proceno. She desired to be in a contemplative state where she could simply pray and commune with those above. But she did not complain and humbly followed the path that always seemed to appear before her. On her day of consecration as abbess, showers of tiny white crosses floated down inside the chapel on the people below. Being a fifteen-year-old abbess was unheard of, and everyone took this as a sign of heaven’s pleasure with Agnes.

Agnes was graced with many visions. Probably the most legendary and the one for which she is best known is was when Our Lady appeared to her holding the Baby Jesus in her arms. Our Lady allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Another time the Blessed Mother gave Agnes three stones and told her to keep them in honor of the Blessed Trinity. She told Agnes that one day she would need them.

Agnes had another vision which told her that she was to leave the Franciscans and join the Dominicans. In 1306 she was asked to return to Montepulciano to build a new convent. She had no money, but she did have the three stones the Blessed Virgin had given to her. Using the three stones as a “cornerstone,” she raised money and built the convent. The sisters embraced the Rule of St. Augustine and joined the Dominican Order.

Sister Agnes died on April 20, 1317. It is said that the children of the city woke up the next morning and sadly cried out, “Holy Sister Agnes is dead.”

Agnes was canonized a saint by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. The Dominicans celebrate her feast day on April 20.

St. Agnes of Montepulciano, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019