Rorate Caeli

On the 400th Anniversary of the death of St. John Leonardi

There is another aspect of the spirituality of St. John Leonardi that I would like to highlight. In many circumstances he had to confirm that a living encounter with Christ is realized in his Church: holy but fragile, rooted in history and in a sometimes dark future, where wheat and weeds grow together (cf. Matthew 13:30), but, nevertheless, always the sacrament of salvation.

Having a clear awareness that the Church is the field of God (cf. Matthew 13:24), he was not scandalized by her human weaknesses. To oppose the weeds he chose to be good wheat: He decided, that is, to love Christ in the Church and to contribute to render her an ever more transparent sign of him.

He saw the Church with great realism, her human frailty, but also her being "God's field," the instrument of God for the salvation of humanity. And not only this. For love of Christ he worked with alacrity to purify the Church, to render her more beautiful and holy. He understood that every reform is made within the Church and never against the Church.

In this, St. John Leonardi was truly extraordinary and his example is always timely. Every reform certainly involves structures, but in the first place it must be engraved in the hearts of believers. Only the saints, men and women who allow themselves to be guided by the divine Spirit, ready to carry out radical and courageous choices in the light of the Gospel, renew the Church and contribute, in a decisive way, to building a better world.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. John Leonardi's existence was always enlightened by the splendor of the "Holy Face" of Jesus, kept and venerated in the Cathedral Church of Lucca [his hometown], becoming the eloquent symbol and the indisputable synthesis of the faith that animated him.

Conquered by Christ like the Apostle Paul, he pointed out to his disciples, and continues to point out to all of us, the Christocentric ideal for which "it is necessary to divest oneself of every self interest and only look to the service of God," having "before the mind's eye only the honor, service and glory of Christ Jesus Crucified."
Benedict XVI
October 7, 2009