Rev. Anthony Dickson will lead a celebration of the Feast of St. Leonard, Patron Saint of prisoners, on Friday 8 November.
St. Leonard of Noblac is a Frankish saint closely associated with the town and abbey of Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat, in Haute-Vienne, in the Limousin region of France. In England no fewer than 177 churches are dedicated to him.
According to the romance that accrued to his name, recorded in an 11th-century vita, Leonard was a Frankish noble in the court of Clovis I, founder of the Merovingian dynasty.
The actual date of his birth is not certain, but he was converted and baptised along with the king by Saint Remy, Bishop of Rheims, on 25 December 496 AD.
On reaching adult life he gave up his very considerable riches and entered a monastery at St. Mesnil, not far from Orleans. Then, according to his legend, Leonard became a hermit in the forest of Limousin, where he gathered a number of followers.
St. Leonard is known as the Patron Saint of Prisoners, having caused the release of many, and of pregnant women. Through his prayers the queen of the Franks was safely delivered of a male child, and in recompense Leonard was given royal lands at Noblac, 21 km (13 mi) from Limoges. There he founded the abbey of Noblac, around which a village grew, named in his honour Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat.
Leonard asked Clovis to grant him personally the right to liberate prisoners whom he would find worthy of it, at any time. Leonard secured the release of a number of prisoners. He gave them work, to support them as they led a new life of honesty.
According to legend, prisoners who invoked him from their cells saw their chains break before their eyes. Many came to him afterwards, bringing their heavy chains and irons to offer them in homage.
A considerable number remained with him, and he often gave them part of his vast forest to clear and make ready for the labours of the fields, that they might have the means to live an honest life.
When St. Leonard died his body was buried in the little Church at Noblac which he had built with his own hands. He died 6 November 559.
He taught his disciples that the captivity of sin was greater than any physical internment – and preached strong doctrine that each would live honest and productive lives.
He was a pioneer in addressing social issues that many would turn away from, understanding that confronting barriers was the only way in which true transformation could be achieved.
He performed many miracles of healing – delivering people from the shackles of illness and physical deficiency; he cast out demons and delivered emotional freedom; he encouraged work and productivity to free the people from poverty and social deprivation.
Father Anthony Dickson will lead a celebration of the Feast of St. Leonard at St. Leonard’s Church in Marston Bigot on Friday 8 November from 10am.
This replaces the regular Friday Holy Communion in All Saints Church in Nunney for this week only.
St Leonard’s Church
Somerset BA11 5DE