Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feast Day of Franciscan St. Leonard of Port Maurice

Today we celebrated the Franciscan feast day of St Leonard of Port Maurice. From Pray the we read;
The doctrine of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice has saved and will save countless souls till the end of time. Here is what the Church says in the prayer of the Divine Office, Sixth Lesson, speaking of Saint Leonard's heavenly eloquence: Upon hearing him, even hearts of iron and brass were powerfully inclined to penance, by reason of the astonishing effectiveness of the sermon and the preacher's burning zeal. And in the liturgical prayer we ask of the Lord, Give the power to bend the hearts of hardened sinners by the works of preaching.
I have struggled over the last few years with how I have used nice sound-byte quotes to 'justify' my position from a site only to realize that the author of the quote had much more to say then what is represented by the simple quote and without further investigation on my part into the author I find the quotes can be misleading. I think the following is a case in point:

At American Catholic we read this: St. Leonard once said,
"If the Lord at the moment of my death reproves me for being too kind to sinners, I will answer, 'My dear Jesus, if it is a fault to be too kind to sinners, it is a fault I learned from you, for you never scolded anyone who came to you seeking mercy'" (Leonard Foley, O.F. M., St Leonard of Port Maurice, p 9).
This is probably a product of my demented self-projection, but from simply the quote I get a sense of this friar being a free-loving-hippy-type-dude in a brown robe skipping along the path tossing flowers at every one's feet. I find that many, many people have no real clue at the radical nature of Francis. Even today I believe that there are friars who misrepresent the radical nature of his messages - say for example Francis' love of Lady Poverty.

Anyway St Leonard of Port Maurice was no slouch when it came to preaching/teaching the Good News of tough love as we would call it today. Here is a sample of one of his sermons, please take a moment and link to the site reading the entire sermon, it is well worth it.

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved by St. Leonard of Port Maurice

It is not vain curiosity but salutary precaution to proclaim from the height of the pulpit certain truths which serve wonderfully to contain the indolence of libertines, who are always talking about the mercy of God and about how easy it is to convert, who live plunged in all sorts of sins and are soundly sleeping on the road to hell. To disillusion them and waken them from their torpor, today let us examine this great question: Is the number of Christians who are saved greater than the number of Christians who are damned?

Pious souls, you may leave; this sermon is not for you. Its sole purpose is to contain the pride of libertines who cast the holy fear of God out of their heart and join forces with the devil who, according to the sentiment of Eusebius, damns souls by reassuring them...


Sinners, the advice I want to give you will no doubt seem strange to you; but if you understand it well, it is, on the contrary, inspired by tender compassion toward you. I implore you on my knees, by the blood of Christ and by the Heart of Mary, change your life, come back to the road that leads to heaven, and do all you can to belong to the little number of those who are saved. If, instead of this, you want to continue walking on the road that leads to hell, at least find a way to erase your baptism. Woe to you if you take the Holy Name of Jesus Christ and the sacred character of the Christian engraved upon your soul into hell! Your chastisement will be all the greater. So do what I advise you to do: if you do not want to convert, go this very day and ask your pastor to erase your name from the baptismal register, so that there may not remain any remembrance of your ever having been a Christian; implore your Guardian Angel to erase from his book of graces the inspirations and aids he has given you on orders from God, for woe to you if he recalls them! Tell Our Lord to take back His faith, His baptism, His sacraments.

You are horror-struck at such a thought? Well then, cast yourself at the feet of Jesus Christ and say to Him, with tearful eyes and contrite heart: "Lord, I confess that up till now I have not lived as a Christian. I am not worthy to be numbered among Your elect. I recognize that I deserve to be damned; but Your mercy is great and, full of confidence in Your grace, I say to You that I want to save my soul, even if I have to sacrifice my fortune, my honor, my very life, as long as I am saved. If I have been unfaithful up to now, I repent, I deplore, I detest my infidelity, I ask You humbly to forgive me for it. Forgive me, good Jesus, and strengthen me also, that I may be saved. I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul."

Francis lived in such joy because he understood the lowliness and sinfulness of his pride. He could and did experience the sheer wonderment of God and His Creation because he lived in total dependence and obedience to Christ. Francis knew sin and the power of sin - it is only through this deep understanding of the power of sin that Francis desired nothing, nothing other than to be Christ's servant. Francis knew in his bones that his only salvation came from a total YES, a Mary's yes to God through service, devotion and love of Christ.

God grant today that I may repent of my sins and lead me back to the lower road that leads to heaven.

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