Benedict Joseph Labre

Benedict Joseph Labre

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Benedict Joseph Labre
birth_date=birth date|1748|3|25|mf=y
death_date=death date and age|1783|4|17|1748|3|25|mf=y
feast_day=April 16
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

caption=A representation of the sorrowful mendicant, Benedict Joseph Labre.
birth_place=Amettes, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
titles=Beggar of Perpetual Adoration
beatified_by=Pope Pius IX
canonized_date=December 8, 1881
canonized_by=Pope Leo XIII
attributes=tri-cornered hat; alms
patronage=Unmarried men (bachelors), rejects, mental illness, mentally ill people, insanity, beggars, hobos, the homeless
major_shrine=Tomb at Santa Maria ai Monti

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre ( _fr. Benoît Joseph Labre) (March 25, 1748April 17, 1783) was a French mendicant and Roman Catholic saint. He was born in Amettes, near Arras in the north of France, the eldest of fifteen children of a prosperous shopkeeper, and was religious from a very early age. He was noted for performing public acts of penance for his sins, even minor sins. At the age of sixteen, he attempted to join the Trappists, Carthusians, and Cistercians, but each order rejected him as unsuitable for communal life. The abbots of these orders suspected mental illness that would make Labre unable to fulfill the vow of obedience necessary for any cloistered religious.

Labre, acccording to Catholic tradition, experienced a desire, which was by his opinion, given to him by God and inspired by the example of Alexius of Rome, to "abandon his country, his parents, and whatever is flattering in the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion". [CathEncy|id=02442a|title= St. Benedict Joseph Labre]

He therefore settled on a life of poverty and pilgrimage. He first travelled to Rome on foot, subsisting on what he could receive by begging. He then travelled to most of the major shrines of Europe, often multiple times. He visited Loreto, Assisi, Naples, and Bari in Italy, Einsiedeln in Switzerland, Paray-le-Monial in France, and Compostela in Spain. During these trips he would always travel on foot, sleep in the open or in a corner of a room, with his clothes muddy and ragged. He lived on what little he was given, and often shared the little he did receive with others. He is reported to have talked rarely, prayed often, and accepted the abuse he received quietly. In so doing, Labre was following in the role of the mendicant, the "Fool-for-Christ," found more often in the Eastern Church. He would often swoon when contemplating the crown of thorns, in particular, and, during these states, his legend says that he would levitate or bilocate. He was also said to have cured some of the other homeless he met and to have multiplied bread for them. In the last years of his life (his thirties), he lived in Rome, for a time living in the walls of the ruins of the Colosseum and made only a yearly pilgrimage to Loreto. He was a familiar figure in the city and known as the "saint of the Forty Hours" for his dedication to the "Quarant' Ore". In his final weeks, he collapsed in church, and was taken into a house out of charity, despite his protestations. He died of his malnutrition on April 17, during Holy Week, in 1783.


His confessor, Marconi, wrote his biography and attributed 136 separate cures to his intercession within three months of Labre's death. Those miracles were instrumental in the conversion of the Reverend John Thayer, the first American Protestant clergyman to convert to Catholicism, who was resident in Rome at the time of St. Benedict's death. [CathEncy|id=14556d|title=John Thayer] A cult grew up around him very soon after his death, and he was declared Venerable by Blessed Pius IX in 1859, and later canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is April 16.


*Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. "The Penguin Dictionary of Saints". 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.

ee also

* Pope "Benedict" XVI, whose first name is "Joseph", and whose birthday is "April 16".
* Saint Malachy's Church, Belfast.
* St. Benedict Joseph Labre Church, Richmond Hill, New York.


[ The life of the venerable servant of God, Benedict Joseph Labrè]

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