St. Leonard of Port MauriceNovember 26 is the feast of St. Leonard of Port Maurice. He was a preacher and ascetic writer, born on December 20, 1676, at Porto Maurizio, in present day Italy. He was the son of Domenico Casanova and Anna Maria Benza. He joined the Jesuits in Rome. On October 2, 1697, he received the habit, and after making his novitiate at Ponticelli in the Sabine mountains, he completed his studies at the principal house of the Riformella, S. Bonaventura on the Palatine at Rome. After his ordination he remained there as a professor, and expected to be sent as a missionary to China, but in 1704, he became so ill that he was sent to his native area of Porto Maurizio, where there was a monastery of the Franciscan Observants. After four years he regained his health, and began to preach in Porto Maurizio and the vicinity. Leonard later began to give missions to the people in Tuscany, which were marked by many extraordinary conversions and great results. His colleagues and he always practiced the greatest austerities and most severe penances during these missions. In 1710 he founded the monastery of Icontro, on a peak in the mountains about four miles from Florence, where he and his assistants could retire from time to time after missions, and devote themselves to spiritual renewal and fresh austerities.

In 1720 he began preaching in Central and Southern Italy, and his missions were received with much enthusiasm and produced many great fruits. Pope Benedict XIV called him to Rome and held him in high esteem. Everywhere Leonard went, he made produced many conversions, being forced to preach in the open, as the churches could not contain the crowds who came to listen.

He founded many pious societies and confraternities, and was particularly devoted to the Stations of the Cross, promoting it frequently. He promoted the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the perpetual adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and devotion to the Immaculate Conception. He wanted to see the Immaculate Conception defined as a dogma of faith by the Holy See. He erected nearly 600 stations throughout Italy, including the one at the Coliseum in Rome.

In November, 1751, while preaching in Bologna, Benedict XIV called him to Rome, as already there were indications of his rapidly approaching end. The strain of his missionary labors and his corporal mortifications had completely exhausted his body. He arrived on the evening of November 26, 1751, at the monastery of St. Bonaventura on the Palatine in Rome, and died on the same night at eleven o'clock at the age of seventy-five. His body is partly incorrupt. Pius VI pronounced his beatification on 19 June, 1796, and Pius IX his canonization on 29 June, 1867. His feast day is celebrated on November 26.

The numerous writings of St. Leonard of Port Maurice include many sermons, letters, ascetic treatises, and books of devotion for the use of the faithful and of priests, especially missionaries. Many of his writings have been translated into many languages and republished: including his "Via Sacrea spianata ed illuminata" (the Way of the Cross simplified and explained), "Il Tesoro Nascosto" (on the Holy Mass); his celebrated "Proponimenti", or resolutions for the attainment of higher Christian perfection. One of his most famous sermons, “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” is a powerful reflection on the great numbers of people that fall into Hell and the reason they do so – their own sinfulness. These are some of his words from this eye-openning homily:

God did not create anyone to damn him; but whoever is damned, is damned because he wants to be.

Ungrateful sinner, learn today that if you are damned, it is not God who is to blame, but you and your self-will.

I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin..., and who are getting closer to hell each day. Stop, and turn around.

I ask You not for wealth, honor or prosperity; I ask you for one thing only, to save my soul.

Weep over past sins, make a good confession, sin no more in the future, and you will all be saved.