Saint of the Day – 13 March – St Leander of Seville (c 534-600/601) – BIshop/Confessor of the Faith/Teacher/Writer Apostle of Spain and Evangelisation – Patron of episcopal attire and liturgical garments. Saint Leander, as bishop, instituted the practice of praying the Nicene Creed during Mass—a practice which continues today. He viewed the Creed as a manner in which to proclaim the divinity of Christ at a time when the Church suffered attack from various heresies, as well as an opportunity to reinforce the faith of the people. Through his diligent work, Saint Leander saw Catholicism flourish in Spain at a time of great political and religious uncertainty.
Leander and Isidore and their siblings (all sainted) belonged to an elite family of Hispano-Roman stock of Carthago Nova. Their father Severianus is claimed to be, according to their hagiographers, a dux or governor of Cartagena, though this seems more of a fanciful interpretation since Isidore simply states that he was a citizen. The family moved to Seville around 554. The children’s subsequent public careers reflect their distinguished origin: Leander and Isidore both became bishops of Seville and their sister Saint Florentina was an abbess who directed forty convents and one thousand nuns. Even the third brother, Fulgentius, appointed Bishop of Écija at the first triumph of Catholicism over Arianism but of whom little is known, has been canonised as a saint.
The family as a matter of course were staunch Catholics, as were the great majority of the Romanised population, from top to bottom; only the Visigothic nobles and the kings were Arians. It should be stated that there was less Visigothic persecution of Catholics than legend and hagiography have painted. From a modern standpoint, the dangers of Catholic Christianity were more political. Saint Leander, as bishop, instituted the practice of praying the Nicene Creed during Mass—a practice which continues today. He viewed the Creed as a manner in which to proclaim the divinity of Christ at a time when the Church suffered attack from various heresies, as well as an opportunity to reinforce the faith of the people. Through his diligent work, Saint Leander saw Catholicism flourish in Spain at a time of great political and religious uncertainty.
Leander, enjoying an elite position in the secure surroundings of tolerated Catholic culture in Seville, became at first a Benedictine monk and then in 579 he was appointed bishop of Seville. In the meantime he founded a celebrated school, which soon became a centre of Catholic learning. As Bishop he had access to the Catholic Merovingian Princess Ingunthis, who had come as a bride for the kingdom’s heir and he worked tirelessly with her to convert her husband St. Hermenegild, the eldest son of Liuvigild, an act of court intrigue that cannot honestly be divorced from a political context. Leander defended the new convert even when he went to war with his father “against his father’s cruel reprisals,” the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it. “In endeavouring to save his country from Arianism, Leander showed himself an orthodox Christian and a far-sighted patriot.”
This action earned him the king’s wrath and exile to Constantinople, where he met and became close friends of the Papal Legate, the future Pope Gregory the Great. Saint Leander served as a contemporary and advisor to Saint Gregory, encouraging him to write his famous commentary on the Book of Job entitled the “Moralia.”
After some time, King Leovigild summoned Leander back to Seville. Having experienced a change of heart, he wished for Leander to instruct his son Reccared—who would inherit the throne—in the ways of the faith. Through Leander’s instruction and model, the people of Spain were converted. He presided over the third Council of Toledo, which upheld the consubstantiality of the Trinity and brought about many moral reforms in the Church. Saint Leader further wrote an influential Rule for Spanish nuns. He introduced the practice of praying the Nicene Creed at Mass. A prolific writer, unfortunately most of his works have been lost to history, although much of the correspondence written by Gregory the Great to his attention remains extant.
After a long life of fighting heresies and preaching the truth, Saint Leander died around the year 600. He was succeeded by his brother, St Isidore of Seville, who is a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Isidore and Saint leander of Sevilla. Ignacio de Ries