When Leopold had dreamed of the priesthood, his eyes traveled over the Adriatic Sea to far-off lands to bring the Gospel of Hope to brothers and sisters starving and thirsting for this Lord Who died for them. He was not to even travel from village to village, like Father Francis and Saint Anthony (Saint of Padua), proclaiming the Good News. He was not even called to prepare others for this mission, by founding institutions or teaching in seminaries. Instead the Lord placed him in a tiny pulpit, a tiny room with no window to the outside world, with no air or light, freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer.
Unlike the thrones of kings, this future Saint sat hours upon hours ministering to God’s subjects in an old broken down chair that was as feeble as the body it held on its lap. A simple kneeler is still beside the rickety armchair, awaiting the contrite. Our Lord Crucified hanging on a wooden cross is above the prie-dieu, a reminder of that God Who loved us so, He asked His Father, with His last words, to forgive us our sins. And then in this small cell looking down lovingly, on priest and penitent, there is a picture of Our Lady, the Mother of God who interceded at Cana and continues to intercede for Her children on earth with Her Beloved Son Jesus. As our Mother we can still see Her there, ready to help all seeking forgiveness, to reconcile with God the Father and Jesus Her Son.
In this tiny cell, for most of forty years, spending more than twelve hours of love per day, he waited and received thousands of penitents, streaming in without interruption, one after another to receive the Sacrament of Penance. Here there was no class distinction; the poor asked for forgiveness kneeling on the same prie-dieu as the rich; the famous turned to God for His Salvific Mercy, alongside the infamous; priests, bishops and religious confessed to Father Leopold (fifty priests the day before he died); professors lined up beside their students – all children of God seeking forgiveness.
The hardest hearts of stone were converted into hearts for Christ alone. Conversions came about through this little friar who was not eloquent, his voice at times hardly audible. His compassion transformed even those most hardened by years of unrepentant sinning; they began the long road to changing their lives, as they became convinced, through this humble messenger, that God loved them even when they were sinning. Upon discovering this unconditional love of the Lord, a love they had never known, true healing came about; they received the fullness of the compassionate gift of Reconciliation, and then the Life-eternal Gift of Our Lord truly Present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Oh, if only our priests would remember how great is the gift they have received, the gift of administering the Sacraments to the faithful! If only we, the Mystical Body of Christ, knew the priceless treasures Jesus left us, those Seven Sacraments we receive through the consecrated hands of these Ambassadors of Christ, then we truly would be one as Jesus prayed to the Father.
cf Jn 17:20-23
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