Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Leonard, Confessor

portrait of Saint Leonard of Noblac from the painting 'Saint Laurent between Saint Stephen and Saint Leonard' attributed to Raffaellino del Garbo, early 16th century; basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy; swiped from Wikimeida CommonsArticle

The Roman Martyrology says of this Saint as follows: “At Limoges, in Aquitain, shone Saint Leonard, a disciple of Saint Remigius, who, of noble parentage, chose a solitary life and became renowned for his holiness and the miracles he wrought. His power, however, was especially manifested in liberating prisoners.”

Leonard, a native of France, was of very high lineage. Clovis, the first Christian king of that country, with whom his parents stood in high favor, was his sponsor. Saint Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, baptized him, and instructed him for several years. The king, in course of time, offered him a high office at court; but Leonard had already conceived a disgust for all temporal things and had determined to employ his days only in the service of God and for the salvation of souls. Hence, he was ordained priest by Saint Remigius, and began to preach the word of God. His holy conduct gave great power to his words to move the hearts of his hearers. There was hardly any one whom he did not succeed in converting or persuade to constancy in pursu- ing the path of right. He first preached at Orleans; after which he travelled through the whole of Gascony, where a great portion of the inhabitants were yet idolaters. God bestowed on him the gift of miracles. He freed the possessed, made the blind see, the deaf hear, and restored health to the sick.

It happened, one day, that the king was hunting with his queen, in a forest. The latter, who was with child, was suddenly taken sick, and her life and that of her child were in great danger. Leonard, not knowing anything of this, was at the same time traversing the forest, on his way to a neighboring village, where he was going to preach. Led by Providence, he came to the place where the queen lay ill. Having been informed of the sad circumstances, he sank upon his knees and prayed, and when he arose, the queen was happily delivered. The King expressed his warmest thanks to the servant of the Lord, and offered him some valuable presents, which the Saint refused, telling the king to give the value of them to the poor. The king promised to follow the charitable request, but insisted that Leonard should accept as a gift the forest in which the miracle had happened, and use it as he deemed best. The Saint, however, was satisfied with a portion of it, large enough to build a chapel in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and a hut for himself and his companions. The king had both buildings erected; and Leonard, entering joyfully into his new dwelling, led a strict and holy life. The fame of his holiness caused many to come to him who desired to serve the Almighty under his guidance. He received them kindly, and instructed them in virtue and piety. Some of these were grieved that there was no water in the neighborhood, and that they had to bring it from a distance. Leonard offered a prayer to the Almighty, and immediately there gushed forth, near the chapel, a spring of the purest water, which exists to this day. This and other miracles spread the fame of the Saint to distant countries, so that his assistance was often requested by people who lived afar off. God bestowed upon him peculiar power to help the unfortunate, as several prisoners especially experienced. It is attested that many who were languishing in dungeons were miraculously restored to liberty when they had heard of the great holiness of Saint Leonard and had begged of God to be merciful to them for his sake. The same happened to others who regarded Leonard, though still living and far away, as if he had been already one of the Saints reigning in heaven, and who requested him with the greatest confidence, to intercede for them. Many of these brought to the Saint the chains and irons, with which they had been fettered, and thanked him for having released them by his prayers. This gave him an opportunity to admonish them to free themselves, by true repentance, from the chains of sin, and to make their lives such that they would not one day be imprisoned in that dungeon from which there is no escape.

Similar admonitions he gave to others who visited him in his solitude. The inhabitants of the neighboring villages and hamlets he sought to lead to piety and the fear of God by his sermons. After having thus lived a holy life for many years, he longed to be relieved from the fetters of life and admitted to the liberty of the children of God. His prayer was accepted; for, God called him to heaven by a happy death, in 549. The miraculous deliverance of prisoners, however, ended not at the death of Saint Leonard. A great many chains were brought to the tomb of the Saint, by different persons, who said that, by calling on Saint Leonard, they had been most miraculously led out of prison. From many hundred instances we will select only a few.

The Count of Limoges had chained an innocent man in heavy irons and in such a manner that he could not move without pain. Calling with great confidence on Saint Leonard, he was immediately released by the Saint who appeared to him, struck off the chain and told him to take it along. The man obeyed, took the heavy chain upon his shoulder, with the greatest ease, and followed his guide, who led him away into the church where the body of the Saint was buried. There the Saint disappeared, and he, who had been so miraculously delivered, related what had happened. A similar miracle was performed in favor of a prisoner of war, who against all justice, had been cast into a deep pit in the earth, by his captor, who mockingly said, that Saint Leonard could open the doors of the prisons and deliver the prisoners, but it had never been heard that he had freed any one out of a pit under the earth. The prisoner was not discouraged, but called the more fervently on the Saint, who appeared to him and led him from his subterranean vault to the gates of the monastery of Nouaille, where the man so happily delivered related the great miracle that the kind Saint had wrought on him. Let this suffice in praise of Saint Leonard, or rather, in honor of the Most High, who is wonderful in His Saints.

Practical Considerations

• The prayer offered by Saint Leonard for the queen had the desired effect. Why has your prayer so often no effect whatever? Because it is not agreeable to the Most High: because it is not as it ought to be. “Three things,” says Saint Bernard, “make prayers agreeable to God: attention, devotion and reverence.” Perhaps not one of these three requisites is to be found in your prayers. How can they, then, be agreeable to God? how can they have the desired effect? If you wish that, in future, your prayer may be pleasing to the Almighty, endeavor first, to say it with attention; give no occasion to distraction by looking about or talking. Should you feel tempted to do either the one or the other, endeavor to preserve your recollection by thinking of the presence of the Most High. Secondly, recite your prayer with devotion and fervor, considering yourself a poor beggar who appears before the mightiest and kindest of all Lords, to obtain relief. Thirdly, say it with due reverence. You read that Saint Leonard sank upon his knees when he prayed. Oh! how many of our prayers are rendered worse than useless by our standing up boldly and without reverence, or by lazily sitting down, leaning against the wall, by talking, laughing, looking about. Such prayer is not agreeable to the Lord, and it not only fails of the desired effect, but rather tends to increase our sins and hence our punishment: because it is a horror in the eyes of God and an offence to His Majesty. Take care that your prayer be not such.

• Take to heart the admonition that Saint Leonard gave to them who brought their chains to him: that they should free themselves from the bonds of sin by true penance, so that they might not be banished into that prison whence there is no escape. I ask you, if you were bound and chained in your house by your enemy, and had to fear that you would soon be imprisoned for all your life in a fearful dungeon, but had it in your power to free yourself from your fetters and thus escape the danger, would you have to consider long before you acted? I hardly believe it: but on the contrary, I am of opinion, that you would, without any delay, loosen your chains, and thus escape all further danger. Behold! as long as you are in mortal sin, you are a prisoner of Satan, enchained by your sin, and you are in continual danger of being banished into the dungeon of hell, whence there is no return. You can free yourself from your fetters by a good confession. The priest, who has the power to bind and to loose, can release you from the chains of your sins, and in this manner you can escape the danger of eternal imprisonment. Are you, therefore, not extremely foolish, if you, by wantonly deferring your penance, remain in danger? Consider what it means – to be eternally imprisoned in hell. You are not one hour of the day secure from being precipitated into it; can you therefore delay one single moment? Oh! heed what you do! “We must hasten,” says Saint Ambrose, “for, life is short, and the greatest danger is in deferring.” Still greater is the danger, if after you have freed yourself from the fetters of sin, you allow yourself to be again bound with them, or rather you again enchain yourself by a detestable relapse into your former evil doings. Saint Leonard never admonished any of the released prisoners not to return into their former bondage, nor to enchain themselves with new irons: because he knew that not one of them would commit so foolish an action. Why then are you so senseless, that after having gone to confession, you commit new sin, and thus deliver yourself again to Satan? If some one went wantonly back again into prison after having been released, he would not be worthy of being released anew, nay, he would not even deserve pity should he die in it. Thus you deserve no pardon, if you wantonly cast yourself into sin again! one could hardly pity you, should you go to destruction in it. “Whoever, after having been restored to health, again in a reckless manner, wounds himself, deserves not to be healed again,” says Saint Lawrence Justinian; “and whoever, after having received pardon, sins again, deserves not to be again cleansed or forgiven.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Leonard, Confessor”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 May 2018. Web. 21 September 2018. <>