Clerks Regular of the Mother of God

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Clerks Regular of the Mother of God is a religious order, also known as Ordo Clericorum Regularium Matris Dei (CRMD, OMD), whose members are known also as Religious of the Mother of God, or Leonardini. It was founded by St. John leonardi in the church of the Madonna of the Rose, Lucca, Italy, Sept. 1, 1573, to combat Protestantism and to promote the Counter Reformation as advocated by the Council of Trent. In accordance with the founder's wish, members have charge of parishes, preach, teach Christian doctrine to youths, direct Catholic organizations, promote devotion to the Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin, and perform a variety of other pastoral works. Members were called Reformed Priests of the Blessed Virgin until 1580, when the founder transferred their headquarters to the church of S. Maria Corteorlandini. When Bp. Alessandro Guidiccioni approved the institute canonically (1583), it took the name Congregation of Secular Clerics of the Blessed Virgin. Clement VIII gave it papal approbation in 1595.

Despite opposition from Protestants and from the leaders of the Republic of Lucca, who claimed to detect in the new organization religious and political dangers to the state, the congregation survived and prospered. In 1601 St. John Leonardi established in Rome the convent of S. Maria in Portico (now Campitelli). The first general chapter there (1603) elected Leonardi superior general for life, and approved the constitution elaborated by him during the preceding three decades. Clement VIII approved this constitution in 1604. In 1621 Gregory XV designated the institute a religious order with solemn vows, and with all the privileges of other orders. The

Leonardi united in 1614 with the piarists at the urging of Cardinal Giustiniani, but the two groups separated in 1617 because the pastoral nature of the former proved incompatible with the scholastic character of the latter. From this time Leonardi's institute took the definitive name of Clerks Regular of the Mother of God.

As the order spread in Italy from Lucca to Genoa, Milan, Rome, southern Italy, and Sicily, it flourished. In Lucca its school produced the leading citizens of the upper and middle classes. The Leonardini were active in all forms of the apostolate and in literary movements. Among the outstanding members of the order were Ippolito Marracci (d. 1675), author of about 100 works on the Immaculate Conception, and his brother Ludovico (d.1700), an Arabic scholar; Bartolomeo Beverini (d. 1686), theologian, historian, and man of letters; Massimiliano Dezza (d. 1704), preacher at the court of Vienna; Sebastiano Paoli (d. 1751), orator and man of letters; and Giovanni mansi (d. 1779), theologian.

Suppressions in the Napoleonic period and in the late 19th century by the Italian government practically destroyed the order, which had no houses outside Italy. Throughout the 19th century the order continued to lead a precarious existence. Conditions became more promising from the mid-20th century onwards. The congregation is found principally in Italy and France.

Bibliography: f. ferraironi, Tre Secoli di storia dell'Ordine Religioso della Madre di Dio (Rome 1939). v. pascucci, S. Giovanni Leonardi (Rome 1963).

[p. pieroni/eds.]

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Clerks Regular of the Mother of God

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Clerks Regular of the Mother of God