Saint of the Day – 1 March – Saint Leolucas of Corleone OBas (c815-c915) Monk of the Basilian Order Abbot, Mystic, Ascetic, Miracle-worker. Born in c815 to 818 at Corleone, Sicily and died in c915 of natural causes, after eighty years of monastic life, in Monteleone Calabro, now Vibo Valentia in Calabria. Patronages – Corleone, Sicily, Vibo Valentia, Italy. Also known as – Leo Lukas, Leo Luke, Leoluca, Leone Luca, Leo Luke of Corleone, Luke of Sicily.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “In the Monastery of Avena between the slopes of Mount Mercurio in Calabria, St Leone Luca, Abbot of Monte Mula, who shone in the hermitic life, as in the cenobitic life, following the rules of the oriental Monks.”
In 2006 Leolucas Relics were found in the Municipality of San Gregorio d’Ippona, about 2 km southeast of the City of Vibo Valentia.
The text of the Life of Leo Luke of Corleone was published in 1657 in the Sicilian Martyrology of Jesuit Ottavio Gaetani (Vitae Sanctorum Siculorum). He was said to have derived it from three manuscripts discovered in Sicily – one from Palermo, another from Mazara and a third from Corleone. Later, the Bollandists published another Life, in Latin, found in the library of Joseph Acosta.
Leolucas was born in Corleone, Sicily in the 9th century on the eve of the Saracen invasion of Sicily. His parents, Leo and Theoktiste Baptised him Leo, in honour of his father. They were a pious and wealthy family who raised him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He was orphaned at an early age and devoted himself to managing the family estate and supervising the herds. In the solitude of the fields he realised that he had a call to religious life, so he sold the estate, gave the money to the poor and went to the Monastery of St Philip in Agira, in Sicily.
It is not known how long he stayed at that Monastery but due to the raids of the Saracens, he left and went to Calabria. Before going to Calabria, however, he went on pilgrimage to visit the Tombs of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome.
In Calabria, he went to the Monastery of Mula, at Mount Mula, one of the highest peaks of the Orsomarso mountains. Here he became a Monk, excelling in the virtues and in obedience, remaining there for six years. Once while he was still a Novice, he and some other brothers went into the nearby forest to collect firewood. The young Novice, full of enthusiasm and charity, trusted in his strength and gathered a large pile of firewood but when he was about to shoulder it, it turned out that he had overestimated his strength. He then split the pile in half, taking one half with him and planning to go back after the other. But when he came out of the forest with his load, the other brothers saw, to their great immense surprise that the other half of the fuel was moving itself beside the young Novice!
Once, soon after, he was bitten by a snake while cutting grass in the garden. Immediately the brothers tried to help him because they thought he was in danger. But young Leolucas retired to a corner of the garden in prayer, and a little later he returned, perfectly well. After that miracle, he had the admiration of the other Monks and they considered him a true friend of God.
He and the Abbot, named Christopher, then sort to find a place of solitude where they could grow further in unity with God. They went to the mountainous region in Northern Calabria and here they founded a new Monastery, living there in Asceticism for a further seven years.
Once more they left and moved onto Vena (modern Avena, Calabria) to continue the spiritual struggle. Here they built another Monastery, which by the time of Christopher’s death, had attracted more than one-hundred Monks to the very strict Rule practised by Leolucas, who himself lived in total silence and apart in a solitary cell.
But after the death of Abbot Christopher, Leolucas became the Abbot. He attracted the faithful in the surrounding regions who flocked to our Saint for spirital direction and cures. Many miracles were worked, demons were exorcised and guided the lost towards the path of salvation. He prayed without ceasing and remained out in the cold for up to twenty days at a time, in penance and reparation.
Leolucas lived the last days of his life in meditation, fasting and ecstatic prayer. Finally he called the Monks to come to him and foretold his end. He delegated the responsibility of the position of Abbot to the Monk Theodore and assigned the Priest Euthymios, as Theodore’s auxiliary. Having received Holy Communion, Leolucas fell asleep in peace and was buried in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
News of Leoluca’s death spread slowly to Corleone and it is only in the 13th Century that there is evidence of a Church dedicated to him in his birthplace. In 1420 there are also references to a Brotherhood of St Leolucas.
Leolucas’ intercession is credited with saving the City of Corleone during an outbreak of the plague of 1575 and he was made the Patron Saint Corleone, his home town. In 1624 he was made the Patron Saint of Vibo Valentia as well.
In1860, an apparition of St Leolucas and St Anthony is credited with preventing Corleone being invaded by the Bourbons.
In Vibo Valentia in Calabria, on his Feast day on 1 March, the local fire brigade pay him homage by placing a crown of flowers at the foot of his Statue which is located high on the façade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore & San Leolucas, using a turntable ladder to perform the act.