The charisma of one person often generates spiritual renewal for many others, as did the gift of St. Leonard Casanova. The churches could not hold the crowds that gathered for Leonard’s parish missions, so he often held open-air meetings. He used the stations of the cross as illustrations in his talks and popularized the devotion by installing 571 sets of stations throughout Italy. He even built stations of the cross in the Coliseum, thus reclaiming for the church the place where many early Christians imitated Christ’s passion in heroic martyrdoms.
Many sought out Leonard for spiritual direction. His letters to advisees convey a commonsense Christianity, still fresh today, as the following example demonstrates:
To speak quite frankly, my dear brother, I believe you are under a delusion. You seem to have got into your head the silly notion that it is impossible for you to live chastely. With this false principle fixed in your mind, at each temptation you immediately give up. True, without God’s grace we cannot live a chaste life. But it is also true that God gives his grace to those who try their best. “From the man who does what lies in him God withholds not grace” (see Psalm 84:11). So when temptation comes, turn straight to God, and he will help you. He said so, clearly: “Seek and you shall receive” (see Matthew 7:7). With God’s help you will keep from sin. Impress, then, on yourself this great truth. Even if all hell’s devils came against you to tempt you, you won’t sin unless you want to— provided that you trust not in your own powers, but in the assistance of God. He doesn’t refuse help to those who ask it with a lively faith. Of course, you must avoid dangerous occasions and keep guard over your eyes. Try it, and you will see the good results. Meanwhile, I recommend you to God, that he may give you the true spirit of penance and mortification without which it is no easy thing to triumph over so degrading a vice. May God bless you.
With his voice faltering, he continued to preach until his death at Rome on November 26, 1751.