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To date, there are no current books on the life of our patron. I hope to change that!
Every Wednesday (American Eastern Standard Time from 6pm to 7pm) my family and I adore our Lord in our local parish. This is when I will read each chapter and write my reflections. Perhaps you can join me now that we have live stream Adoration and we can be united in the hearts of Jesus, Mary and St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
The following are my on reflections on “The Life of Benedict Joseph Labre” which was originally written by his confessor Father Giuseppe Marconi in Italian and then later translated in English by Father James Barnard in 1785. This book was one of the main instruments used for his canonization process to begin.
I will offer one chapter per week as a reflection. Scroll down the page to find the most recent reflections.
edited by Theresa Duff
Fr. Marconi was entrusted by the Bishop of Boulogne and by the Vatican to write an accurate account of the life of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, because he was the confessor of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
The priest begins the book with this prayerful beginning: “Almighty God, Who alone does wonderful things. Who raises up the needy from the dust, and lifts up the poor from the dunghill, that he may sit with princes, and hold the throne of Glory, has vouchsafed in our days to raise up a poor man, who was born in France and known by the name of Benedict Joseph Labre, and in proportion to the obscurity of his life, has rendered him so much more illustrious after his death. And as we piously believe, has put him in possession of that blessed Kingdom promised to the poor in spirit, as a proof of which He exists Powers of His Right Hand and renews His Prodigees.”
Fr. Marconi references that: “all” of Italy has been surprised and astonished regarding the wonderful works Benedict Joseph Labre has brought to Rome, but also in “very distant places”, which were more and more manifest. These events became more prevalent than the virtuous humble life qualities of our saint.
According to Fr. Marconi, this was the main reason his superiors entrusted to him the writing of the book. Their intent was clear: To wipe out and dispel any sense of exaggerations and spiritual hysteria of un-truth about Benedict Joseph’s Life. Hence, this book attests to the authenticity and was used to pronounce St. Benedict Joseph’s holiness and his cause for Canonization.
Fr. Marconi’s knowledge of St. Benedict Joseph was like none other at the time and his book was written out of a sense of both affinity and duty. Great tasks were taken by the author to obtain authentic documentation of accurate life accounts which were submitted to Rome for Benedict Joseph’s Cause.
The Following Reflections are from the cited book (above)
by Timothy Duff, STM, MA Cert. CHL
Edited by Theresa Duff
Chapter One – The Birth of the Servant of God: His Infancy and Education
France was known as the elder daughter of the Church; Father Marconi praises France for inspiring so many holy people. In referring to this, he states: “we may now exalt on the increase of its glory by having produced so great a man as Benedict Joseph Labre. Through our patron’s life being concealed in the common people. The author uses the words, “contemptible veil of a poor, mean and abject life; at the moment of his death Benedict Joseph bursts from obscurity. Through a pronouncement of wonder from all countries and fixed on his tomb. He now has the attention of the whole Catholic world.” (Ch1. Paragragh 1) The author focuses on these so that the reader can build a lasting impression of piety and an affinity for Benedict Joseph Labre. It is commonly known the people from all over Europe and beyond traveled to Benedict Joseph’s funeral.
Benedict Joseph’s father and mother offered a proper sense of gratitude to God for so many blessings. Benedict Joseph shared this mindset. His parents exposed their children to many grace-filled moments and brought them up in innocence and holiness. The family had a distinguished reputation for this in their day.
Benedict Joseph was baptized by his paternal uncle: Rev. Francis Joseph Labre, formerly the vicar and rector of the parish in the village of Erin (within the same diocese of Boulogne upon the Sea).The priest (who was also godfather) gave Benedict Joseph his name.
His uncle Fr. Francis oversaw the education of Benedict Joseph and our patron spent the greater part of his youth under his uncle’s formation and direction. Father Marconi mentions a “formation” of Benedict from his infancy and the example of his virtuous parents became an instant vehicle of grace for Benedict Joseph to lead an innocent and holy life. Benedict Joseph expressed his gratitude for this in a letter which he later wrote from Mont Reuil to his parents on October 2, 1769. A copy of the letter in its entirety follows the reflection.
Fr. Marconi describes young Benedict from the time of five as having a strong desire to read and write. He was gifted with a retentive memory, quick comprehension and good judgement. His demeanor was sweet and very docile. This disposition laid the groundwork for young Benedict to be open to a tender devotion which turned his first thoughts towards God. Even at this young age, Fr. Marconi accounts that the Holy Spirit moved the soul of our patron to a singular love of prayer. This was so much so that his parents shared how he had a disdain and dislike of childish amusements. Fr. Marconi explains further that the principle part of young Benedict’s character were the works of grace and not of the effect of his countenance. He then goes on to share how young Benedict began early to realize the war within the flesh between the passions and the soul. Benedict had a profound humility. He said Benedict was so well composed that these early virtues were hidden so as not to go noticed. Father Marconi states: “every assault of his passions convinced him that the life of a Christian in this world is a continual warfare, and that a soldier of Jesus Christ must never lay down his arms until the moment in which he is to receive his crown. From hence proceeded that courageous resolution which he formed in his infancy and which he and which he firmly adhered to of restraining the first motions of his natural passions and inclination, and of always corresponding with the grace of God, that in all things he might be entirely guided by the lights and motions of His Divine Spirit.“(Ch1. par. 5)
Young Benedict’s parents, neighbors, and others who cared for him from infancy all bore witness to these facts about St. Benedict Joseph Labre. They testified that he was observed to have a mild and even bashful temperament. Fr. Marconi said that those who studied his life and who tried to penetrate the real motives of his conduct concluded that in Benedict grace triumphed over nature. The humility of Benedict made him (under the appearance of simplicity) concealed the tensions in his interior conflicts and the merit of his victory over his natural inclinations.
The following is the letter St. Benedict Joseph Labre wrote to his parents after he left Sept Fons Trappist Abbey:
A verse from the “Miserere ” headed the letter. Ab iniquitate mea et a pec- cato meo munda me quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco; Ab iniquitata mea et a peccato:
My very dear Father, and my very dear Mother,
I must tell you that the Carthusians have not found me suitable to their Order. I am, therefore, come out to-day, October 2nd. I take it as a command from Divine Providence. The Carthusians themselves told me that the hand of God is directing- this. I go on my way then towards la Trappe, the goal I have so long wished to reach. I ask your pardon for all the trouble I have caused you, and for my many acts of disobedience. I beg of you both to give me your blessing so that Our Lord may go with me. Every day of my life I shall pray for you. Do not be uneasy on my account. However, much I might have wished to remain in the monastery, they would not have consented to keep me, so I rejoice that the All-Powerful leads me. Be careful for the instruction of my brothers and sisters, especially of my god-child. With the grace of God I shall cost you nothing more, and I will give you no trouble. I com¬ mend myself to your prayers. I am well. I have given no money to the servant who takes this letter. Before leaving the monastery I received the sacraments. Let us always serve the good God and He will never forsake us. Take good care of your health. Do read and practise all that Plre l’Aveugle (P6re Lejeune) teaches. His book points the way to heaven, and if we are not guided by it, we cannot hope for salvation. Meditate upon the fearful pains of hell which are the penalty of a single mortal sin that we commit so easily. Strive to be among the small number of the elect. I thank you for all the goodness you have shown me, and for all the services you have rendered me. God will reward you for them. Try to give my brothers and sisters the education you have given me, it is a means to make them happy hereafter. Without instruction one cannot be saved. I have cost you much, but be assured that by God’s grace I will profit by all you have done for me. Do not be distressed because I have left the Carthusians, it is not lawful to resist the will of God, and He has thus disposed of me for my greater good, and for my salvation. Remember me to my brothers and sisters. Grant me your blessing. I will not give you any more pain. The good God whom I received before leaving the monastery will assist me, and guide me in the enterprise which is His own inspiration. I will always have the fear of God before my eyes, and His love in my heart. My strong hope is to be taken at la Trappe ; in any case I am assured the order at .Sept-Fonts is less severe, and that younger postulants are received, but I shall be received at la Trappe.
Your very humble Servant,
Benedict Joseph Labre.
Montreuil, October 2nd, 1769.
Benedict Joseph Labre
Votary of Holy Poverty and Pilgrim
BY C. L. WHITE
LONDON : BURNS & OATES, Limited
NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO : BENZIGER BROTHERS 1906
by Anne Costa
Anne Costa is a wife mom and grandmom, the author of six books for Catholic readers and an inspirational speaker. She is currently working with the John Paul II Center for Women and delivers Spiritual Boot Camp - Catholic Mom Edition...power-packed videos to encourage and affirm Moms to help them stay fit for the Kingdom and strong in their faith. Anne lives with a mental illness and is an advocate and friend of those who do the same.
Chapter 2- The Employments of the Son of God in his infancy
Chapter two of the book is spiritually rich in its content and only the first two paragraphs of the chapter were used for this reflection.
Fr. Marconi begins by pointing out that when God calls specific souls to the heights of holiness, their infancy is a foreshadowing of what their mature adult life will be like. He notes that it is especially through Divine Providence that this takes place. Through little Benedict Joseph: "we are furnished with a new proof of this truth in the life of Benedict."
From the age of five, the author points out that Benedict Joseph began to practice virtuous acts that would, "make his soul a most perfect model and a copy of that of Our Divine Savior, Jesus Christ." Fr, Marconi quickly begins to speak of the profound spirituality Benedict Joseph would embrace throughout his life - someone who embraces Jesus Christ and who tries to imitate him must have a triple heart. Fr Marconi explains that this person: " ought to have, in some manner, three hearts founded upon, proceeding from, and concentrated in one; that is to say, one for God, another for his neighbor, and a third for himself." (par.1)
Father Marconi states the Benedict said that "the second heart must be faithful, generous and full of love and inflamed with love for our neighbor" We must be always ready to serve him; being always concerned for the soul of our neighbor. He again turns to the words of Benedict: "employed in sighs and prayers for the conversion of sinners and for the relief of the faithful departed." (The souls in purgatory.) The third heart, Benedict said: "must be steady in its first resolutions, austere, mortified, zealous & courageous, continually offering itself in sacrifice to God." (par.2)
This is the heart of a Christian according to our patron. Fr. Marconi reiterates Benedict sentiments not to allow passion or sinful inclinations to distract or dissuade us from the goal, He encourages us to live a life of self-denial while always focusing on eternal life. Benedict says: "our happiness in the next life will be proportionate to our contempt of this earthly existence and the courage with which he has kept it nailed to the cross.
"Benedict said these three hearts (or affections) need to be united as to make only one- being amiable to all, a friend of true humility...whoever builds upon any other foundation than humility builds on sand." (par. 2)
Completion of Chapter 2- The Employments of the Servant of God in his Infancy
As Little Benedict Joseph grew in age, so did his Wisdom of God and practice of virtue. Fr. Marconi attests that rather than the usual childhood play, “he would make little oratories”. There were profound prayer gestures. Fr Marconi also says that these were an intuition of his future. The word in the book is “presage”. This caused Benedict to desire great devotion and desire to serve the priest at the Altar during Mass. His parents testified that his heart was constantly filled with this desire.
Another profound virtue that was noticed in little Benedict Joseph was his devotion to the sacred churches. Townspeople were so edified by him that most of them would show up at Mass in order to get a glimpse at little Benedict Joseph serving at the Altar in such a mystifying and devout manner. Fr. Marconi says that at a very young age little Benedict Joseph’s heart was fixed on the Sacred Mysteries. He also states: “he never entered into them but with such a degree of reverence as afforded edification to every beholder.” (Paragraph 3) Such profound language is used here that it must be quoted: “When a soul is free from every earthly affection and full of God, Whom the liveliness of its faith represents as being in a state of immolation upon the altars, when a soul is truly sensible of and truly grateful for all His favors, where can such a soul experience more celestial sweetness than in the temples and before the holy altars.” (paragraph 3)
Fr. Marconi stated many people witnessed that not only did little Benedict Joseph have an edifying presence while serving Mass, that he also sought instruction in the faith in the same way. He was always filled “with a holy eagerness and was desired to hear, read and meditate on the Word of God” (paragraph 4)
At that time, on most Sundays, people engaged in all sorts of recreations throughout the day. Fr Marconi stated that little Benedict would attend such things out of obedience to his parents. The author emphasizes a second time that he had no inclination or relish in such things. Little Benedict Joseph would often leave them to hang with adults in order to have a more serious conversation. Fr. Marconi mentions here how most children follow their childhood imaginations and play- but not little Benedict Joseph.
Fr. Marconi then passes moral critique of Benedict Joseph at this early stage of development. He attests that these movements of the saint to leave children’s play and the like are not from a “melancholic temperament” but are from an exalted and pure motive of the heart. The author further embellishes on this point by saying that whenever it was out of obedience or civic duty, little Benedict Joseph would have a good graceful way about him and engage in “innocent diversions.” His uncle M. Vincent testified he was “always contented with his companions and cheerful in his recreations.”
Fr. Marconi declares that this is only attributed to God and that little Benedict Joseph was called to such a state of perfection: “Learn of Me, for I am Meek and Humble of Heart.”
At the same time, the Holy Spirit was at work by moving our saint to contemplation at an early age. He began to love solitude and silence. According to Fr. Marconi, Benedict Joseph became happier and more content in his soul to follow his vocation. The more he practiced these things, the happier he became. Yet, he remained open and docile, and he was a pleasure to be around, so much so that he attracted other children and adults to himself.
Fr. Marconi says that his childhood terminated earlier in the development of Benedict Joseph than in most children. His love of reading and study grew in proportion to his desire for solitude and contemplation. He began to distaste worldly childhood things and began to move towards penance, sacrifice, and self-contempt. (Keep in mind our saint at this stage is not quite seven years old) The author concludes by stating that he always put the obedience of his parents first. “During the whole course of his life, he never departed from the abdication of all earthly things, which he had resolved on and practiced from his tender age. But this which was, in his infancy, a kind of novitiate to that state of evangelical poverty which he practiced with so much rigor during the rest of his life, was at that time looked upon only as an effect of natural bashfulness.”
Chapter 3- His First Studies
edited by Anne Costa
Chapter three, which is short, highlights the desires and virtues taking hold in Benedict Joseph at the age
of seven. When he was five, his parents, seeing the good nature of their son, sent him to the school in
their town of Ammette. The Church pastor, Msgr. Hanotel, also was the keeper of the school.
The author, Fr. Marconi states: “If Benedict was a model of religion and piety to the children with
whom he was educated, he set then an equal and edifying example of docility and assiduity in the
discharge of all of his duties proper to a person of his age.” (Ch3, Paragraph 1)
Msgr. Hanotel wrote a declarative statement about Benedict Joseph validating all of his extra-
ordinary dispositions and virtues of the young man. The letter states that for twenty-eight years of
further pastoring of the school, the priest never forgot about Benedict Joseph, so much so, that he
often inquired about him throughout much of that time. Msgr. Hanotel admitted that he always knew
some great goodness would come from Benedict Joseph’s life.
The chapter concludes by offering another declarative statement made by Msgr. Hanotel’s servant,
Francis Forgeois. He said: “This child distinguished himself above all others of his age in modesty, piety,
docility, meekness, etc. He never said anything to offer his master question.”
He closes his statement by saying that he was so well satisfied with his conduct that he didn’t
remember Benedict Joseph saying or doing anything that might grieve him.
Fr. Marconi vociferously shared the statements of these witnesses. He reiterated
these sentiments by explaining how Benedict Joseph was honored by our Divine Master with these
special God-given graces toward love and recollection., citing “a remarkable disengagement of his heart
from all earthly engagements.” Fr. Marconi closes chapter three with a short reflection on the Church.
He reminds us that God raises saints like Benedict Joseph early in his life in order to awaken our faith.
He explained, “ in all probability, the reason why God imparted to Benedict while he was yet an infant
such extraordinary graces, was that, by new examples capable of arousing our drowsy faith, He might
convince us that His Church, which is always holy, will never cease to have saints in every age, every
condition and state in life.”
The image of St. Benedict Joseph Labre is the actual Icon from the late Little Brother's of St. Francis
who were a small Franciscan community in Roxbury Mass for thirty years.
The Founder passed away and the order no longer exists. The image was in their little chapel named after our patron.
They personally prayed for us since 1996 and became our close friends. Br. James will not forget you!.
Oh Divine Master we are indebted to you for the holy example of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. He consented to be filled and motivated by your love at an early age, seeking to do your will throughout his life. Let us follow his example, humbly and with great meekness and dependence on You who is the source of our grace and consolation. Amen.
Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre
P.O. Box 422
Maynard, MA 01754
ATT: Mr. Timothy Duff, STM, MA
NACC board certified chaplain