His voice was not strong enough for preaching. Weak of constitution, he couldn’t speak over crowds or command a room. His eyes ailed him. But in the small, dimly-lit confessional, his voice resounded with depth and rang with piercing clarity.
Born in Croatia in 1866, St. Leopold Mandić was a humble Capuchin Friar and a confessor. Though he stood a mere 4’5”, his compassion and grace loomed large.
Despite numerous health struggles such as severe arthritis, poor eyesight, and a painful stomach ailment, St. Leopold would regularly spend full days in the confessional. His humility, gentleness, and wisdom gained him a reputation as a powerful spiritual director, with people (including several bishops!) traveling great distances for confession and direction.
During World War I, St. Leopold refused to renounce his Croatian nationality, leading to his year-long imprisonment. Upon his release, he was sent to Padua, Italy, where he would spend the rest of his life in a small room continuing to hear confessions.
His small room, though fitting for his size, was bare, with little furniture and protection from the weather. During the winter, the cold was piercing, and in the summer, the heat was oppressive. But for 40 years, the mercy of God radiated from this tiny spot as Fr. Leopold heard confessions for 14-16 hours a day.
St. Leopold’s gentleness in confession gained him many followers, but also many critics. He was criticized for being too easy on his penitents. To this St. Leopold simply replied: “…if the Lord wants to accuse me of showing too much leniency toward sinners, I’ll tell Him that it was He who gave me this example, and I haven’t even died for the salvation of souls as He did…I give my penitents only small penances because I do the rest myself.”
During World War II, St. Leopold’s friary was bombed and destroyed, yet his simple room was left miraculously untouched. This heavenly protection over his room was even predicted by the saint himself! He once said, “The church and the friary will be hit by the bombs, but not this little cell. Here God exercised so much mercy for people, it must remain as a monument to God’s goodness.”
Fr. Leopold died in Padua from esophageal cancer on July 30th, 1942. After he received the Last Rites, his friars sang the Salve Regina. When they sang the line, “O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary,” Leopold died.
St. Leopold was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II and is the patron saint of cancer sufferers and confession.
May the compassion and gentleness of St. Leopold inspire you to seek out the inexhaustible mercy of God found in the Sacrament of Confession! Freedom, love, and a true encounter with the person of Jesus Christ await you there. Vinny Flynn’s transformative book, 7 Secrets of Confession, is the perfect tool to help you break free from any anxiety or shame keeping you from this glorious sacrament! Get your copy today at the Catholic Company!