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.
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".
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.
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.
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."