Main Altar – Benedict Joseph Labre

Benedict Joseph Labré (French: Benoît Joseph Labré, March 25, 1748–April 17, 1783) was a French mendicant born in Amettes, near Arras in the north of France, the eldest of fifteen children of a prosperous shopkeeper. He was religious from a very early age and was noted for performing public acts of penance for his sins. He was inspired by the example of Alexius of Rome to “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 therefore settled on a life of poverty and pilgrimage. He first traveled to Rome on foot, subsisting on what he could get by begging. He then traveled to most of the major shrines of Europe, often several times each. He visited Loreto, Assisi, Naples and Bari in Italy, Einsiedeln in Switzerland, Paray-le-Monial in France, and Compostela in Spain. During these trips he would always travel on foot, sleeping in the open or in a corner of a room, with his clothes muddy and ragged. He lived on what little he was given and often shared the little he did receive with others. He is reported to have talked rarely, prayed often, and accepted quietly the abuse he received. He was said to have cured some of the other homeless he met and to have multiplied bread for them. In the last years of his life (his thirties), he lived in Rome, for a time living in the ruins of the Colosseum, and made only a yearly pilgrimage to Loreto. He was a familiar figure in the city and known as the “saint of the Forty Hours” for his dedication to Eucharistic adoration in the Quarant’Ore. The day before he died, he collapsed in the church of Santa Maria ai Monti, blocks from the Colosseum, and despite his protestations was charitably taken to a house behind the church. He died there of his malnutrition, during Holy Week in 1783 and was buried in Santa Maria ai Monti. He was attributed 136 separate cures to his intercession within three months of his death. A cult grew up around him very soon after his death, and he was declared Blessed by Blessed Pius IX in 1860, and later canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881. His feast day is April 16.

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