Feast Day : April 16
Patronage: beggars; the homeless; religious orders; toy makers
Also known as: the “Beggar of Rome”
Benedict Joseph Labre was born in Amettes, France, on March 25, 1748, the oldest of 18 children. At an early age he showed great interest in austerity and mortification. His uncle was a parish priest in Erin, France, and at age 12 Benedict went to study with him for six years. He earnestly desired a religious life, but his parents did not approve. After his uncle died in 1766, he renewed his efforts to join an order and his parents acquiesced. He was rejected by the Trappists. He spent a brief six weeks as postulant with the Carthusians. He received permission to enter the Cisterican abbey of Sept-Fonts, but after a short stay his health failed, and he left. Benedict was inspired to live like St. Alexis and be neither in a cloister nor in the wilderness, but simply be a pilgrim to the famous shrines of Christendom. Thus, he set out through Europe in 1770. He had only the clothes on his back, a rosary, a crucifix, a Testament, breviary, a copy of the Imitation of Christ and a few other books. If he could not find food in the wild or was not given any, he rummaged through garbage heaps. In 1774 he settled in Rome. He became known for his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, his attendance of the Forty Hours devotion and his ecstasies. Once he was seen levitating in a kneeling position while he prayed at the Church of Gesu in Rome. According to his biography (written by his confessor, Marconi), witnesses were amazed but the sacristan, who had seen it before, was not, and calmly continued his sweeping. His body finally gave out from his austerity and mortification. He collapsed on April 16, 1783, on the steps of the Church of Santa Maria dei Monti in Rome and was carried to a nearby house, where he died. Immediately miracles were attributed to his intervention. Marconi documented 136 such cases.