Posted on March 03, 2024 08:00

3rd Week of Lent- Reflection on St. Benedict Joseph Labre

As we enter the mid-point in our Lenten season, we can ask the question: how do we examine ourselves? Looking at our patron when he was young my help. St Benedict Joseph made a few general confessions over his life.  Have you ever made one? Check out the following reflection I wrote a few years ago.

God Bless!

Tim Duff, STM Guardian/ Co-Founder

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.


First reflection from Chapter 4

Chapter 4- An Account of the Youth of Benedict; his Conduct Under the Direction of His Uncle- He Makes his First Communion

The Chapter begins with Fr. Marconi describing the transition of Benedict Joseph in his infancy to that of his youth. The confessor draws an analogous comparison to that of St. Malachias which is described in a eulogy by St. Bernard who states:

The youth of St. Malachias was entirely a piece of his infancy. He preserved the same purity, simplicity, the same innocence of morals. The only difference that could be observed in him in those two different stages of his life was that in his youth he entertained a still greater desire to grow in wisdom and in grace…He took upon himself certain particular devotions and observances, and by his means raised himself to a degree of virtue and holiness to which it was difficult for others to attain. P1

According to Fr. Marconi, there is a universality in the making and development of saints. He calls it “The Same Divine Spirit”. The fruits of the grace given may differ from person to person in lieu of the particular age and states of the soul when a person is called to sainthood. He recalls, that the source, “the foundation and substance is the same in all.” P2 Father Marconi goes on to state that by a particular disposition of Divine Grace some are called in the first instances of their life to holiness. These persevere, hear their vocation and follow it. P2

There were multiple testimonies from the time of our saint that show this to be the case of our Benedict Joseph. Fr. Marconi states this was especially true of Benedict’s parents. His parents declared:

He gave them constant proofs of his sincere piety by his assisting at the Divine Offices and instruction with a degree of attention and reverence tuly edifying; of wisdom and prudence, of never saying or doing anything unbecoming, of obedience, by always doing what he was ordered, with cheerfulness and alacrity, of peacefulness, in always behaving towards his mother, his father, his brothers and sisters in such a manner as never to give them any occasion of uneasiness or offence…A disposition, adds his parents, as to make this child most dear and amiable to them, as he likewise was to everyone he knew. P3    

Possessing these qualities, moves his parents to decide to formally educate Benedict for the priesthood. Now at the age of 12, his parents work things out with his uncle (the priest) that he prepares for his first communion. Benedict can hardly contain himself at this news: “his soul was filled with sentiments of joy, of love, of humility and of a holy fear.” The saint himself had obviously been preparing for this major spiritual event in his young life. He was filled with a desire to make his first general confession. (Keep in mind that Benedict Joseph maintained his baptismal innocence throughout his life.)

Fr. Marconi was moved by Benedict’s preparation and it is worthy to account: “This would be the first of five or six general confessions he would make throughout his lifetime. The venerable Benedict, being persuaded that, without the grace of God we can do nothing, not even discover our own faults, so as to view them in that light in which we ought to consider them, first implored the light of the Holy Ghost and besought Him not only to bring to his remembrance his sins with all of their different circumstances, but likewise to discover to him the true state of his soul, his bias and inclinations.” P5

St. Benedict Joseph’s Format for making a General Confession

  • He proceeds to state each Commandment and their corresponding virtues; he is examining his life from the time he made his last confession examining and comparing his life: all his actions from the time he had made his last confession.
  • He divided his life into many segments, carefully comparing them to the particular virtues of each commandment.
  • He took special note not to judge himself “This he considered as the province and privilege of the minister of Jesus Christ,”
  • He explained what temptations he had experienced and how he behaved under them.
  • He explained what special graces God had given him and in what particular manner he had responded to them.

St. Benedict Joseph’s Attitude of Prayer after making the General Confession

  • He offered a fervent prayer to God asking for a true contrition of heart
  • He made a serious consideration of all of the motives which faith suggests to move his self to it.
  • “Above all, he endeavored to excite in his soul a sorrow for his sins.” This allowed him to take on an attitude of penance.

Prayer After This Week's Reflection

by Anne Costa

Dear Lord,

The example of St. Benedict Joseph's youth is a sweet reminder of how we are to completely entrust ourselves to your perfect care. He depended on you for everything and received many graces to exercise virtues that were pleasing to you and those who knew him. Thank you, Lord, for your direction, your judgment, and your unending mercy. Help us to approach you in confession with the same confidence and contrition of heart that St. Benedict Joseph displayed. 

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