Giving Unto Death
St. John Leonardi was born in 1541 in Lucca, Italy. While studying for the priesthood, he also worked as a pharmacist’s apprentice. After his ordination on December 2, 1572, he worked with prisoners and the sick. His charitable and selfless example attracted some young laymen who began to assist him, most of whom then became priests themselves.
The group of clergy formed the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, a congregation of diocesan priests. Because of the politics of the Reformation and an unfounded accusation that John formed the group for his own personal aggrandizement, the congregation received great opposition; it was distinguished for learning but was originally devoted to combating Protestantism and to promoting the Counter-Reformation. The Clerks received episcopal approval on October 13, 1595 by Pope Clement VIII; still, John was exiled from Lucca for most of the rest of his life. He was assisted in his exile by Saint Philip Neri (himself a founder of a congregation — the Oratorians). Saint Philip, ever the joyful and giving saint, gave John his quarters — and his pet cat!
In 1579 John formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (the foundation for our current C.C.D. — religious education — classes), and published a compendium of Christian doctrine that remained in use until revised in the 19th century. John died on October 9, 1609, from a disease caught while caring for victims of the plague, and is buried in Santa Maria in Portico. By the deliberate policy of the founder, the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God have never had more than 15 churches, and today form only a very small congregation.
John was canonized in 1938.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Denis (Dionysius), Bishop, patron against demons and headaches, and Companions (Rusticus & Eleutherius), 3rd Century, Martyrs
St. Louis Bertrand (1581), Priest, Religious
St. Dionysius the Areopagite (1581), Priest, Religious