Beggar of the 3 Hail Mary's

Francisco Tomás was born on June 24, 1864, into a devout peasant family. His parents, James and Jeronima, earned their living on a small farm in the rural village of Alpandeire in south-west Spain. The eldest son of four children, he worked hard alongside his family to turn the rocky soil into fertile ground. He began each day early, rising before dawn to walk to daily Mass and visit the Blessed Sacrament. The rest of the day was devoted to toiling in the fields of the family farm. He often gave away tools to those in need or gifted money he earned from the grape harvest to the poor. This was his life for nearly 35 years.

One day, while visiting the nearby village of Ronda for the beatification of a Capuchin friar named Diego of Cadiz, Francisco was greatly inspired by the preaching of the Capuchins. He decided at that moment to embrace the religious life, saying: “I want to become a Capuchin like them.”

So, in 1899, at the age of 35, Francisco entered the Capuchin novitiate at Seville and received the religious name Leopold of Alpandeire. The change in lifestyle was no great transition from what Leopold had lived previously, but the change of his name shocked him “like a cold shower.” It was an unusual name even among the friars. Because he was a farmer in his previous life, the friars assigned Leopold to work in the vegetable garden. From there, he would go daily to the Blessed Sacrament chapel and spend long nights in adoration to God.

After the novitiate, Leopold was assigned briefly to Seville and Antequera, before being moved to Granada, where he would spend the rest of his life. A quiet man who had spent much of his life on the farm, he was sent out into the bustle and noise of the outside world as the friary questor. He would now live in constant contact with the people of Granada.

He became such a common sight, that people recognized him at first glance, especially children. To them he would teach little bits of the catechism while he listened to the worries and sufferings of their parents. To all of them he assured his prayer of intercession, promising to pray three Hail Mary's for their needs. He was nicknamed the “Beggar of the Three Hail Mary's.”

He daily trod the streets of Granada, dispensing alms of charity and scattering the sadness that overwhelmed the lives of so many. Always in his eyes was a light of serenity that calmed the people around him. Yet, the streets were becoming increasingly dangerous. A growing anticlericalism was spreading through Spain. Over 7,000 priests and religious had been killed and Leopold often met with angry and vocal opposition. He daily suffered berating and insults simply for being what he was; yet, he prayed to God for all of his tormentors.

While begging for alms one day at the age of 89, Leopold fell and broke his thigh. His days of questing over, he dedicated the rest of his life to intense contemplation. He died at Granada on Feb. 9, 1956. He was beatified on Oct. 12, 2010.