St. John Leonard
John Leonard born near the city of Lucca, showed himself from early youth grave and mature beyond his years. At twenty six he was called by God to enter the ranks of the clergy. He began by studying the rudiments of Latin with young boys, but made such progress in letters and in the disciplines of philosophy and theology, that scarcely four years later he was under obedience, promoted to priesthood. He founded the congregation of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, by whose work and zeal a great change of attitude was effected in the republic of Lucca. This aroused against John the bitter complaints of wicked men but he bore everything with serenity of mind, obtaining the confirmation of his congregation from Gregorv XIII. He was very sorrowful over the multitudes in distant parts who lacked the light of the Gospel and, having taken counsel with the devout leader Vives, he founded an institute of Priests whose work was to form young men who would be sent to propagate the faith in far countries Finally. having carried out his sacred ministry so perfectly, clad in sackcloth and ashes he went to the Lord at Rome on October 9 in the year 1609, and was numbered among the Saints by Pope Pius XI. 1960 Breviary
Two or three young men, attracted by his sanctity and the sweetness of his character, had gathered round him to submit themselves to his spiritual guidance and help him in the work for the reform of manners and the saving of souls which he had begun even as a layman. Giovanni rented the beautiful little church of Santa Maria della Rosa, and in a quarter close by, something like community life was started. It was here, when it became evident that Giovanni’s lay helpers were preparing for the priesthood and that something like a religious order was in process of formation, that a storm of persecution broke out against the devoted founder. The Fathers of the republic seem to have had a real fear that a native religious order, if spread over Italy, would cause the affairs of the little state to become too well known to its neighbours. The persecution, however, was so effective and lasting, that the Blessed Leonardi practically spent the rest of his life in banishment from Lucca, only being now and again admitted by special decree of the Senate, unwillingly extracted under papal pressure.
Herberman, Charles G.; et al., eds. (1907). The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.