Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?

Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."

To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."

As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."

April 16: Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

Posted by Jacob

Today, April 16, is also the feast day of another important saint, Saint Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783). Saint Benedict Joseph is considered the patron saint of the homeless, single men, and of those suffering with mental illness. As a clinical psychologist, I find the life story of Saint Benedict Joseph both extremely poignant and inspirational, and pray that his intercession may draw more attention to the plight of the homeless and mentally ill around the world.

Benedict Joseph was born to a middle class family in France, the eldest of 15 children. His parents ensured that he was provided with the finest educational opportunities as he matured, but Benedict Joseph only appeared interested in those that would bring him closer to the Lord. From a young age he demonstrated tendencies toward deprivation and mortification, avoiding the normal fun and frivolous activities of childhood, and gravitating toward prayer and fasting. As an adolescent, he was sent to live and care for an ailing uncle, who continued his education in Latin and divinity.

Benedict Joseph was single-minded in his pursuit of holiness. He was determined to enter a religious order, specifically the Trappists. For many years he traveled to different orders, seeking admission, but was always turned away at the onset due to his age, or following admission, due to his health. It is likely, although unknown, that Benedict Joseph suffered from a serious mental illness, yet throughout his suffering, remained true to the Lord, constantly seeking a deeper union with Him.

Following his multiple rejections from religious orders, Benedict Joseph changed his plan. As his confessor wrote in his biography, he determined “that it was God's will that like St. Alexis he should abandon his country, his parents, and whatever is flattering in the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion".

He did just that, leaving his home and family with only the clothes on his back, two Rosaries, a crucifix, a Bible, a breviary, and some religious texts. Having no food, he sustained himself on whatever he could find, refusing alms offered to him, and giving anything in excess of what he needed to the poor. He slept outside, on the ground, oftentimes trading comfort for discomfort so as to suffer more. Saint Benedict Joseph traveled throughout Europe on foot for approximately 13 years, estimated to have walked over 20,000 miles visiting various religious pilgrimage sites and shrines. He finally settled in Rome, where he lived on the streets for the last 6 years of his life.

It was in Rome that he became known as a “fool for Christ,” and the “Saint of the Forty Hours” (Quarant’ Ore), due to his dedication to prolonged Eucharistic adoration. During this adoration, or more pronounced when he meditated on the crown of thorns worn by our Savior, Benedict Joseph is reported to have levitated or bilocated. A host of additional miracles are attributed to him, including miraculous cures of those he encountered, and multiplication of bread and food for his fellow homeless. He was well-known throughout the city for his holiness, kindness, and cheerful demeanor despite what was a very difficult existence.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre died of malnutrition in 1783. Due to his popularity, his body was laid in state for nearly a week, and visited by thousands during that time. 136 separate miraculous cures were attributed to him in the first 3 months following his death. His body was laid in a tomb, at an altar in a chapel of Santa Maria dei Monti in Rome, where it remains today.

The life of Saint Benedict Joseph Labre reminds us that the Lord loves and has a beautiful plan for all His creations, despite what society may judge or view them as. Despite his mental illness, Benedict Joseph continually strived throughout his life to grow closer to the Lord, to serve Him, and to serve as an example for others. He faced multiple rejections with grace, and eventually changed his plan in obedience to God, never giving up his search for holiness. We are challenged by the life of this saint to consider our own actions, both when we encounter difficulties in our lives that prevent us from following the will of God, and also when we encounter those individuals in our communities who society has written off, marginalized, and judged as less than. What is our mandate, as disciples of Christ, to those that are suffering?

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:34-40)

Prayer to St. Benedict Joseph Labre:

Saint 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 by. Amen.


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