Prayer for the Intercession of
St. Benedict Joseph Labre
Brother John Raymond
St. Benedict Joseph Labre was born in France in 1748. As a boy
his parents sent him to his uncle, Father Vincent, to be trained for
the priesthood. Both were in love with poverty and silence.
At eighteen Benedict Joseph tried two very austere Orders, the
Carthusians and the Trappists. This was not his vocation. In July
1770, he embraced the life of a wandering pilgrim or poor man.
No saint has more exemplified Christ in the poor and homeless
than St. Benedict Joseph Labre. He travelled to Rome where he lived
in total poverty - sleeping at night under an arch of the Colosseum.
He was seen wandering the streets of Rome like any beggar. Yet, if
one studied his face, caught a glimpse of his always downcast eyes,
observed the large rosary around his neck, the copy of the New
Testament in his pouch and the breviary he carried - one would see a
Known as the "Poor Man of the Forty Hours" St. Benedict Joseph
would spend days in churches in which the Blessed Sacrament was
solemnly exposed for forty hours. For years this Saint was seen in
Rome making pilgrimages from church to church where the Forty Hours
was being held. He would remain before Jesus, always on his knees
absorbed in adoring prayer, motionless for as much as eight hours at
St. Benedict Joseph not only suffered from his meager conditions
of living but also from people whom he met. Some people treated him
cruelly. Struck on the mouth by a stone, he was seen to pick up the
stone and kiss it. Once, a gentleman wanted to report his tormenters
to the government, but he refused: "No, let no complaint be made;
what we suffer for the love of Christ Crucified is little."
Thus, he travelled the unfrequented byways sometimes covered with
deep snow. His nights were spent under a hedge, in a hayloft or in
the stable of a kind family. He refused all gifts except those for
immediate needs. Benedict's sleep was interrupted by many insect
bites!. Due to his great charity, he would not burden others with
the insects that were on his clothes and body. He would almost never
set foot inside someone's house. Later in life, under obedience to
his confessor, Benedict spent his nights in a hospice for the poor
although he always slept on the floor.
Benedict Joseph made pilgrimages to Barcelona, Montserrat and
Compostela. All across the south of France, over into Germany, and
zigzag across the face of Italy - men and women saw him once and
never again forgot him. As Benedict weakened he became less capable
of these long pilgrimages. More and more his life centered on Rome
and the Holy House at Loreto.
In Rome he became a familiar sight at the church of Santa Maria
dei Monti. He knelt upright hour after hour in perfect stillness,
even with the soft tumors that had developed on his knees. Sometimes
at the noon hour, when he had the church to himself, he allowed his
fervor to find vent in exclamations.
In general, his meeting with people was characterized by
gentleness and concern for other people's comfort. Beggars were
amazed at the help they received from him. In a mountain pass in the
Pyrennes a traveller, wounded by brigands, opened his eyes to find a
ragged figure bending over him. When soldiers saw Benedict they
thought he had wounded the traveller and threw him in prison. The
traveller finally convinced the soldiers of Benedict's innocence and
they released him!
On April 16th, 1783, a butcher was passing the church of Santa
Maria dei Monti at nine o'clock in the morning. He saw a pitiful
figure drag itself out of the door of the church and fall upon the
steps. He took him to his house and placed him on a bed. This was
the first bed he had layed on in years. He received the last rites
in an unconscious state. That evening, as the church bells rang out
the Angelus, Benedict suddenly, and without a struggle, ceased to
St. Benedict Joseph in his late years claimed, "Men offend God
because they do not know Him." Let us, like Benedict, go to the
tabernacle to get to know this God who loves us so much. Let us make
a pilgrimage like Benedict to a church we have never visited to
spend some time with Our Blessed Lord. Finally, let us be careful
about our attitude toward the next poor person we meet - it may be
another St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
St. Benedict Joseph Labre, you gave up honor, money and home for
love of Jesus. Help us to set our hearts on Jesus and not on the
things of this world. You lived in obscurity among the poor in the
streets. Enable us to see Jesus in our poor brothers and sisters and
not judge by appearances. Make us realize that in helping them we
are helping Jesus. Show us how to befriend them and not pass them
St. Benedict Joseph Labre, you had a great love for prayer.
Obtain for us the grace of persevering prayer, especially adoration
of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
St. Benedict Joseph Labre, poor in the eyes of men but rich in
the eyes of God, pray for us. Amen.