Monday, April 16, 2018

Contemplatives in the streets - S. Benedict Joseph Labre

Sharing the shame.

Today is the feast day of the mendicant/pilgrim saint, Benedict Joseph Labre. It is also Pope Benedict XVI's birthday. St. Benedict Joseph must be a very special patron to the Holy Father - as he is for me.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre was a single layman. God called him to such a life. Some people like to say there is no such thing as a vocation to single life - one is either called to priesthood, religious life, or the married state. The single life is not a vocation of course, it is a state in life. In this state a person is called to work out his or her salvation, to accomplish the will of God - which is our salvation. Hence, one must be prudent when telling others there is no vocation to the single life, lest they discourage them from seeking God according to their state in life - which happens to be the single life.

St. Benedict tried his vocation with the Carthusians and Trappists, although he was subsequently rejected due to a disorder or defect in his temperament. Some believe he may have suffered from a form of mental illness. Whatever the case, the Saint lived a devout life as a layman. Inspired by an interior impulse, Benedict Joseph followed the pattern of life set by St. Alexis, the Roman noble who left his wife on their wedding night and lived the rest of his life as an ascetic - a pilgrim and mendicant.

The Orthodox have saints like Benedict Joseph, the 'fools for Christ'.  They are 'failure saints, who share the lives of ordinary people of the streets, and sometimes those most rejected and shamed by society.  Pope Francis talks about these things and frequently mentions priests who smell of their sheep.  St. Benedict Joseph smelled and had fleas, like a dog.  He is considered a great contemplative saint - but he never had a place to call his hermitage or monastery, and never was clothed in a habit, save for the Cord of St. Francis.

"Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the insult which he bore.  For here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come.  Through him let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge his name." - Hebrews 13: 13-15


  1. Fr M figures that suburban priests need to wear cheap cologne to smell like tbeir sheep.

  2. The late great Father Benedict Groeschel took his name from this great saint.

  3. I have often wondered why the Cordbearers of Saint Francis seem to have gone out of existence. Saint Bernadette was also a member...interesting that we celebrate their feasts on the same day.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.