Brief Articles and Excerpts


Henry Sebastian Bowden, of the Oratory, Miniature Lives of the Saints For Every Day in the Year (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd. [1877?]), Vol. I, pp. 213-214.

[St] Benedict Joseph Labre was born at Amettes in the diocese of Boulogne, in the year 1748. After an unsuccessful trial of the religious life when twenty-two years old, he abandoned, at the call of God, his country and parental home, and, renouncing all further communication with his relations, spent the remainder of his days as a poor beggar, either in visiting the chief shrines of Italy and Spain, or in praying for long hours together in the sanctuaries of Rome. His clothing was a few scanty rags; his bed the ground; the food of his choice, such refuse as he might pick up. If alms were forced upon him, he gave them to the poor. He crucified his senses by continual mortification. He never looked at the curiosities of the cities through which he passed. He spoke little, and only when necessity or charity required it. Nothing could exceed his low esteem of himself. A word of praise made him shudder, while insults and blows were delicious to him. His prayer was almost unbroken. He was most devout to the Blessed Sacrament, so as to be called 'The poor man of the Forty Hours.' His love of Mary was so great, that the words, 'O Mary, O my Mother,' would often burst from his lips. God favoured him with gifts of prophecy and miracles. He died at Rome on Wednesday in Holy Week, A.D. 1783.

"My Good -- my All -- sole Object of my love -- O come! I long for Thee, I sigh after Thee, I wait for Thee! Every little delay seems a thousand years! Come, Lord Jesus, and tarry not." -- [St] Benedict Joseph

[St] Benedict Joseph's behaviour before the Blessed Sacrament was so devout, and his body, head, and eyes, which were always fixed upon it, so motionless, that some persons compared him to a statue, while others said that he did not seem like a man praying, but like an angel adoring or a person in ecstasy. In the presence of Jesus the fire of his heart shone forth in his inflamed countenance, which, though ordinarily pale and emaciated through his penitential life, became red and burning before the Blessed Sacrament.

'I will seek Him whom my soul loveth.' -- Canticles iii.2


Alban Butler. Lives of the Saints For Every Day in the Year, With Reflections, Compiled from the "Lives of the Saints" by Fr. Alban Butler, With New Saints and Saints Whose Feasts Are Special to the United States. (New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1955), Appendix, pp.397-98.

April 16. ST. BENEDICT JOSEPH LABRE, Confessor.
St Benedict Joseph Labre was born in the village of Amettes, near Boulogne-sur-Mer in France, on the 26th March, 1748. His early education was placed in the hands of one of his uncles, who was the cure of Erin. From Benedict Joseph's earliest years he showed every sign of piety, the fulness of which began to develop and soon crowned every year of his life on earth.

After making several unsuccessful requests to enter certain monasteries, where he might serve God according to his heart's desire, he was finally received by the Cistercians in November, 1769. His happiness, however, proved to be short-lived. He was taken ill and his superiors decided that he was not called to be one of their number. Upon his recovery, he discovered God's holy will in his regard to his life, "that remaining in the midst of the world, he would devoutly visit as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion."

With this "holy and wholesome thought" ever before his mind, he made solitary pilgrimages to many of the great shrines of Europe. He visited the shrine of Our Lady of Loreto in Italy no less than ten different times during his life. One writer tells us that he seemed to have been destined by God to recall to men's mind the poverty of Christ. He ate nothing but the fragments he received from charity, and esteemed himself happy in suffering hunger, thirst, and the inconveniences of travel, for he had ever before his mind the mortified life of the Master and His Blessed Mother.

He loved the Church of Our Lady of the Mountains in Rome. He spent much time in this, his favorite place of devotion, and on Wednesday of Holy Week, in the year 1783, when he went to pray, he was taken suddenly ill and expired as those who attended him in his last moments said the invocation of the litany of the dying: "Holy Mary, pray for him." His feast is celebrated on April 16.

Reflection. Let us learn from the life of St. Benedict Joseph Labre to remember that we are always in the presence of God, and particularly so when we are in church; for Jesus is really, truly, and substantially present in the Most Bless Sacrament of the Altar.


John Coulson, ed. The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary: With an Introduction by C. C. Martindale, S.J. (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1958), p. 275.

This is the story of a social misfit who finally found his niche in heaven by not having one on earth. Benedict Joseph Labre was born at Amette near Boulogne in 1748, the eldest of a family of fourteen. He was educated by an uncle, a priest, and quite early in life decided that he had a vocation to the monastic state. For one reason or another he was unable to remain in a monastery; in vain he tried with the Cistercians, with the Carthusians, with the Cistercians again, and on each occasion despite his fervor was obliged to leave on account of the severe spiritual trials that befell him in the noviciate.

Still craving solitude, Benedict sought it on the road as a pilgrim, and so found his vocation. He avoided inns and travelled by unfrequented routes. He slept under a hedge, in a barn; rarely would he enter a house, never would he accept more than sufficient for his immediate needs. And so he reached Rome. Dirty, not from choice but because the poverty he felt he was called to compelled it, without settled lodging, never knowing where his next meal was coming from, always meek and grateful, sheltering in bad weather in a nook in the wall, spending hours in church -- so he passed his time in the capital of Christendom. Then he was on the road again, on pilgrimage to Compostella, to the shrines of Germany, Poland, then back to Rome where, if the term can be used, he settled, but went yearly on a pilgrimage to Loretto. He died in Rome in 1783, and hardly had he done so than the children were running thriugh the streets shouting, 'The saint is dead! The saint is dead!'


Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., Ph.D., ed., Lives of the Saints For Every Day of the Year, Illustrated (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1955), pp. 151-152.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre was born in France in 1748. He received a good education under the care of his pious parents and a priest of Amettes, the place of his birth.

From his childhood he performed various acts of penance for faults, even the most venial. In his twelfth year he began to learn Latin under the care of his uncle, a priest, and for four years he applied himself to this and other studies with pleasure. At sixteen, however, his thoughts turned so much to piety that a dislike of study seemed to gain upon him. Above all, he loved the Bible, and for the rest of his life always carried a copy about with him.

At this period of his life he showed a desire to join the Trappists. Upon being refused, he next tried the Carthusians, and remained six weeks among them; but such was not his vocation. Another trial of the monastic life, made among the Cistercians, was equally a failure. He now took to the life of a pilgrim, and in this he sanctified himself, living on alms and practicing extreme poverty. The last years of his life were spent in Rome, where he made pilgrimages to different sanctuaries. Gradually his health declined. In 1783 he seemed to be dying and yet he would spend hours in prayer. Finally, he was taken into a house out of charity, and died on April 16th of that same year.


The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Mancipia Immaculati Cordis Mariae), Saints To Remember From January to December, Revised edition (Still River, Massachusetts: The Sisters of Saint Benedict Center, 1983), p. 27

April 16. Saint Benedict Joseph Labre (1783).
He was a saintly man who spent his life as a pilgrim and as a beggar in France and in Italy. He went about from church to church, spending most of his day in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. His favorite shrine, to which he made a pilgrimage every year, was the Holy House of Loreto, the house where Mary was conceived and born, and where she conceived her Divine Child -- and which had been miraculously transported through the air by angels, in 1291, from Nazareth to Dalmatia, and in 1294, from Dalmatia to Loreto. Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, the beggar, was canonized one hundred years after his death.


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