Saints for Today: John Leonardi, Priest (1541-1609)


Feast Day: October 09

John Leonardi, founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, was born in Italy, and was educated as a pharmacist. But at the age of twenty-five, he left that profession and studied for the priesthood. After his ordination, he became very active in the works of ministry, especially in hospitals and prisons. The example and dedication of his work attracted several young laymen who began to assist him. They later became priests themselves.

In 1579, John formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and published a compendium of Christian doctrine that remained in use until the nineteenth century. Father Leonardi and his priests became a great power for good in Italy, and their congregation was confirmed by Pope Clement VIII in 1595.

John and his followers projected a new congregation of diocesan priests. For some reason the plan, which was ultimately approved, provoked great political opposition. John was exiled from his hometown of Lucca, Italy, for almost the entire remainder of his life. He received encouragement and help from St. John Calasanz and St. Philip Neri (his spiritual director) who gave him his lodgings – along with the care of his cat.

John Leonardi was a co-founder of the seminary “Propaganda Fide,” and the Opening Prayer of the Mass repeats the sentiments expressed in the Prayer after Communion in the Mass for the propagation of the faith. At a time when there is less emphasis on the foreign missions, the missionary zeal of St. John Leonardi reminds us of the importance of evangelization and re-evangelization. The Church is missionary by its very nature, in accord with the mandate of Christ: “Preach the gospel to every nation.”

John died at the age of sixty-eight in Rome, stricken with plague while caring for victims. John was canonized in 1938 by Pope Pius XI.

Bunson, Matthew, Margaret Bunson, and Stephen Bunson. “Encyclopedia of Saints-Revised.” Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day-Updated and Expanded.” Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2013.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.


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