Following Our Patron
St. Benedict Joseph Labre- Perhaps a time for a little review
by Timothy Hughes Duff
Over twenty years ago, in 1996 when my mother and I started the Guild, we were in Larchmont, New York to meet with the late Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel. We told him of the things we needed: brochure, pictures, holy cards, articles, etc. He said: "There is none! You do it!." At that time, there was hardly any presence of our saint in books, internet or anywhere else for that matter. We traveled far and wide to search, develop and promote our saint's cause for over 20 years and I am honored that we have been the inspiration for so much good spiritual work to be done. He is finally coming to be known. Praise God!
We made many long trips, up and down the Eastern seaboard by car from as far south as Florida and as far north as Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. This was mostly to visit religious communites, request their prayers and to share the news of what we wanted to do. After literally hundreds of thousands of miles, it was well worth it!
Now, I am coming to worry and realize that a day might come when the Guild of this important saint could cease to exist. Will there will be anyone to continue our mission? The monies do not come in like they did to support us and I am concerned for our future. The best way for someone to help us is a small monthly donation of maybe $10 or $15. Consistency is important for our survival.
In May of this year, my mother, Mildred Duff, will turn 89 years old. May I ask for your prayers for her? She is still very spry in her mind and heart but her body is aging and I feel she will be home at last before too long. Her work for the Guild is immeasurable, and I am truly indebted to her, as are many of you.
People sometimes remark, "It's a great thing you're doing", or, "this has changed my outlook about my life." These comforting words bring me joy and peace. However, it is still a very lonely road at times. No, I am not looking to change my mission, I am just being very realistic.
Not too long ago, truthfully, we had a membership of over 3,000 people on our (snailmail) mailing list - people wrote to us from all over the world! Now, because of the internet and mail costs we have just under 1,000. Our internet presence is slowly catching up but it has a long way to go. It is time consuming! We only have about 480 people on our email list. Want to help? Consider a donation, or ask for brochures with a small donation to cover costs, so that I can send materials to you for your parish. PLEASE: email your friends and tell them about the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre to promote our mission. There is so much mental illness in our world, and I fear it will only be increasing.
Friends, please know that I trust in my heart that Jesus take will care of Our Guild: "Jesus, I trust in You." When I see Him someday, He is going to look at me with a big smile and with open arms and say: "Well, done!" That's my consolation in all of this!
God Bless you all!
Timothy Hughes Duff
Our prayers and St. Benedict Joseph Labre
Through our years of work with the apostolate of the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, we have come to understand “the spirit of prayer” as expressed by St. Benedict Joseph Labre. After twenty plus years of prayer and research this is what we have concluded from his spirituality and life:
What do you do when you are concerned about someone? Simply put, you have a conversation and express your concerns. The same can be said about prayer. Prayer is a love conversation. By raising our hearts and minds to God, we enter into the love conversation of the Blesed Trinity. We express our concerns about the other to God and His response to us, is love turned to us and to the other in the form of grace and strength. This happens in whatever way God deems best.
As a Catholic chaplain and pastoral care educator, I speak of what I call the pastoral dimension in spiritual care. Evertime time we connect with another human being, all of us have the opportunity to commune with the Trinity. Keep in mind these three points: 1. First there is the relationship between you and the person you are relating or ministering towards. 2. That person has a pre-exisiting relationship with God. 3. Consider your own relationship with God and ask yourself: why has God allowed me to have this encounter with this person? What is God saying to me? Where is God in this pastoral encounter? This is what is known as a theological reflection.
Our Saint personified this to a mystical degree and lived in the presence of the Trinity everyday of his life. This was his spirituality. In almost everthing I researched and read, it was said of our patron: he didn't say much, but once you met him, he left a presence so strong that you never forgot him.
He said: "In order to love God, every Christian must have three hearts in one. A heart of fire for God, a heart of flesh for our neighbor and a heart of bronze for ourself.
This Guild too through St. Benedict Joseph's Labre's example, is constantly in a love conversation with God. We understand the need to pray for one another, especially when a person is unable to do so. This is how we share the love and compassion of Jesus through the example of our patron.
We have found that St. Benedict Joseph is the best example for anyone who is searching to understand the importance and meaning of prayer in one’s life. Whenever he entered a town, he made it his first priority to go to confession. He knew the value of spiritual guidance and he was always obedient to his confessor. We use this example of our patron’s life to further understand our own life’s pilgrimage. He shows us that the Holy Spirit is needed to make life’s most important decisions.
Is a person with mental illness called to Holiness?
We know from his canonization processes, that St. Benedict Joseph suffered from a deep dark depression. He had been rejected as a candidate for religious-life on more than one occasion. They feared for his sanity and health. He had difficulty because in his heart and mind, he felt that God had rejected him. He would not even receive communion. This must have been a time when his emotions did not allow him to converse with God. But it was also a great time of grace. He would eventually find great healing.
He said: “Courage! Illness is a greater grace from God than health. Many saints have desired to suffer the things that you suffer…but have not been able to do…” St. Benedict Joseph Labre’s mental suffering would become a great means for holiness. At his canonization, Pope Leo Xiii called our patron, “Holiness itself!”
Blessed Mother Teresa states that mental illness is represented by Jesus’ crown of thorns. Our Guild encourages its members to reflect and pray with our patron. They have in their power the means for sanctity. They are called to become another Christ, (with God’s Grace); for, that is what a saint is. They are, another Christ in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the refuge of mental sufferings. Let us take Blessed Mother Teresa’s words to heart and often meditate on Jesus’ crown of thorns.
Benefits and Graces of Guild membership- Don't Forget to Sign Up if You Haven't
Abundant graces will flow to our members from all of the prayer support. Prayers are being offering almost continuously by many religious communities all over the word. They petition God on our behalf asking for the sanctification of all of the suffering and experiences from mental illness. Our members, their families and their friends are remembered in their personal prayers. They hold us in their hearts to share love and compassion.
We are all placed under the Mantle of the Merciful Mother of the mentally ill. She takes all of our life’s experiences and presents them to Her Divine Son. She, herself is constantly conversing with the Trinity on our behalf.
In addition, the Guild has been entered into many prayer associations at Holy places. In particular, a list of our members is placed in the altar vault of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy. The Holy House of Loreto is the actual house where the Annunciation and Incarnation took place. This was our patron’s favorite place. His love compelled to go there because the Holy Family was the perfect reflection of the Blessed Trinity on earth. We are all called to follow in our patron’s footsteps.
Our Guild Logo
THE THREE HEARTS depict the words of St. Benedict Joseph: "To love God properly we need three hearts in one: a heart of fire for God, flesh for our neighbor and of bronze for ourselves".
IN THE HOLY HOUSE of Loreto in Loreto, Italy one would often find St. Benedict Joseph. Our patron would go on pilgrimage there, particularly during Holy Week. He had the greatest love for Our Lady of Loreto, and we do too.
JESUS' CROWN of thorns represents the struggles of those persons with mental illness. Blessed Mother Theresa said, "Mental illness represents Jesus' crown of thorns."
THE HOLY EUCHARIST - St. Benedict Joseph was referred to as: " The Lover of the Blessed Sacrament," and "Poor Man of the Forty Hours." Here, in the center of Jesus' crown of thorns is a monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament. It is the Guild's wish to rekindle that fire of love for the Blessed Sacrament here in the United States and around the world.