Father Leopold was born in Gaiche, a parish in the diocese of Perugia, in the year 1732. From his earliest years he was known for his great piety, so that no one was surprised when at the age of eighteen years he was invested with the habit of the Friars Minor. After evincing remarkable talent in his studies, he became a priest in 1757, then an instructor of the young clerics in philosophy, and after that in theology. For several years he filled these offices with blessed results and was then appointed a missionary preacher. This seemed to be the very field for which God had chosen him. His knowledge, his apostolic zeal, but most of all his holy manner of life, soon caused him to become widely known. Everywhere people desired to hear Father Leopold, and his missions produced rich fruit for the salvation of souls.
In the year 1768 he was appointed apostolic missionary for the entire Papal States, and through a period of ten years, he traveled from one diocese to another conducting missions that were signally blessed.
He was then elected provincial of his province. Also in this capacity he continued his apostolic work, but in accordance with a long-cherished desire he arranged for a quiet friary on the lonely mountain of Monte Luco, near Spoleto, whither the missionaries could withdraw, that by interior recollection they might promote their personal sanctification and gather new zeal for their work. The location of the friary and its arrangements for convent life could not have served these purposes better. Pope Pius IX pledged himself, as long as he was bishop of Spoleto, to withdraw to this convent every year for a renewal of spirit.
At the conclusion of his term as provincial, Father Leopold became the first guardian of this lonely convent, and except during the time of the missions it remained his place of residence until the year 1809. This was the sad year when Napoleon, at that time emperor of France, seized the Papal States, carried Pope Pius VII a prisoner to France, and suppressed all the convents in Italy. No religious was allowed to be seen in the habit of his order. In consequence, Father Leopold had not only to leave his beloved convent, but also to lay aside his habit. The seventy-seven year-old man withdrew into a poor hut and offered his services in the care of souls to the pastor. Later he was commanded to take an oath which he considered unlawful; he resolutely refused, for which reason Blessed Leopold of Gaiche had to go to prison. During these sad times he was deeply afflicted, not because of his own sufferings, but because of the sufferings of Holy Church. He prayed much, and quietly sanctified himself more and more. Blessed Leopold of Gaiche was destined to see the dawn of better times.
In the year 1814 Napoleon was deposed, Pius VII returned to Rome, and Father Leopold, too, could again withdraw to his beloved convent at Monte Luco, where he put forth every effort to restore everything as it had been in the earlier days. Then God called Blessed Leopold of Gaiche to his eternal rest on April 2, 1815, in the eighty-third year of his life. Many miracles were wrought at his grave, for which reason the process of his beatification was begun much earlier than usual. A papal decree of 1844 approved his heroic virtues; and on March 3, 1893, Leo XIII issued the decree of beatification.
Father Leopold was canonized October 16, 1983.
*from The Franciscan Book of Saints, Marion Habig, OFM
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