Saturday, April 16, 2011

St. Benedict Joseph Labre



Today is his feast day.
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I always write about him so for today I will link to another site for remarks instead.
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Benoît-Joseph Labre (1748-83) is the patron saint of the homeless. Having failed in his first ambition, to become a monk, he became for five years a perpetual pilgrim, before abandoning himself to the life of a derelict in Rome.

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The eldest of 15 children of a prosperous shopkeeper, Benoît-Joseph was born in the village of Amettes, near Boul-ogne. Even as a young boy he manifested both extreme devotion and an inextinguishable horror for anything which smacked of sin.
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At 12 he was sent to live with an uncle who was parish priest of Erin, some 40 miles from Amettes. There, he immersed himself in reading the Bible and the lives of the saints.
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Although Benoît-Joseph was not gloomy – indeed, he seemed to be cheerful in the depths of his soul – he was never sociable. His first ambition was to join the strictest possible religious order and submit himself to the most rigorous mortification.
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Something about him, though, made monasteries wary. The Trappists, the Carthusians and the Cistercians all decided that he was unsuitable for any form of community.
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Around 1770, when he was 22, Benoît-Joseph conceived the idea of becoming a pilgrim. He set out for Rome, travelling on foot and depending entirely on alms. His aim, in imitation of his Master (Luke 9:58), was to have nowhere to lay his head.
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Such gifts as he received he often passed on to those whose need he considered greater than his. He had no possessions save his increasingly disgusting clothes, and three books, the New Testament, the Breviary and The Imitation of Christ.
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As he walked he became totally absorbed in prayer and meditation, rarely speaking to fellow pilgrims. Nor, it must be admitted, were they keen to talk to him, given his stinking condition.
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So, over the years, Benoît-Joseph made his way to all the main pilgrim shrines in western Europe, including Loreto and Assisi in Italy, Compostela in Spain, Paray-le-Monial in France and Einsiedeln in Switzerland, which he visited five times.
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From 1774, however, he settled in Rome (save for an annual visit to Loreto), sleeping rough in the Colosseum until forced by illness to enter a hospice for the poor.
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He spent his days in churches, becoming known as “the saint of the Forty Hours” in consequence of the long periods he spent in contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament.
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Finally, on April 16 1783, worn out by his sufferings and austerities, Benoît-Joseph sank down exhausted on the steps of his favourite church, the Madonna dei Monti, and was carried to a neighbouring house, where he died.
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Canonised in 1883, Benoît-Joseph has been called a “representative example of those who have refused, in the name of Christ, to be respectable”. - Source

5 comments:

  1. Well, that was certainly more charitable than the screed I read yesterday, which started:

    "If such a creature as the "venerable" B. J. Labre can be called a man, he was one of the silliest that ever lived to creep and whine, and one of the dirtiest that ever "died in the odour of sanctity..."

    And went downhill from there, with the usual smirks about a church who could venerate the disgusting.

    (written in 1838 by a virulent anti-papist)

    Heroic virtue in a less-than-pleasing package is a hard concept for many (including, to my shame, me).

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  2. Mrs. Rudd, That is definitely a sad commentary. Poor anti-papist... I wonder if he ever read the story about the rich man and Lazarus?

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  3. Thanks for this, Terry.
    I love St. Benedict Joseph and love the fact that the Church can acknowledge and honor a man who doesn't meet the norms of the DSM-IV! I believe in Russian Christian spirituality these folks are called "holy fools" who take literally being "a fool for Christ" (from St. Paul) literally.
    I have dealt with several very holy but really off-the-wall individuals (as I'm sure we all have) who suffer untold miseries in union with the good Lord. Like St. Benedict Joseph, some of them can only trust priests and children and avoid any unnecessary contact with adults due to their problems. I've had to learn humility and patience in dealing with them because it takes time and effort to be who they need me to be.

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  4. "Said the abbot Hyperichius, "The treasure house of the monk is voluntary poverty. Wherefore, my brother, lay up thy treasure in heaven: for there abide the ages of quiet without end.""

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  5. Terry; I did not know about him. Thanks so much. Another jewel. I read Fr. Goodier's summary of his life at EWTN. It made me cry.

    He was unlike other men; he must take the consequences and he would. He could not be a monk like others, then he would be one after his own manner. He could not live in the confinement of a monastery; then the whole world should be his cloister. There he would live, a lonely life with God, the loneliest of lonely men, the outcast of outcasts, the most pitied of all pitiful creatures, "a worm and no man, the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people."

    We should be careful about who we think deserves our honor, huh?

    Padre: There are some who were not meant for the cloister or marriage but are very holy still, right?Like, um, Terry?

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