St Benedict Joseph Labre- Contradiction of the times
I recently was given a book by a friend of mine who has been a Benedictine monk for some time. He wanted me to share some of the points about our saint and also about the Eighteenth century which, in some respects, is not unlike our own. I couldn't help feeling that God's Providence sent this information to us as we continue to find out why our patron, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, continues to be relevant for today.
As you will see, our saint is a sign of contradiction. In fact, is God sending us a stern message through his life yet once again? Time will tell!
Rather than me trying to go into deep explanations, I am am going to cite and quote directly the book. This will help us come to a better understanding of how God is still planning to use our saint now and in the future. (See my blog from November 3rd, 2019) You may draw your own conclusions.
The book is the seventh volume of Danial-Rops'critically acclaimed History of the Church of Christ, On the back cover it says, "the monumental series is fast becoming the standard reference work for Church history." and the series was originally written in French and was translated by John Warrington. The series was first circulated in England and then finally made its way to the American publishers around 1964.
The following is from Section V The Remnant, part 1- God's Beggar
It is significant that Benedict Labre, the saint who challenged his age, was born in the land of decadent elegance, of irreligious philosophies and dashing romances, in the bosom of a Church whose numerous enemies were conspiring to destroy her and foretelling early collapse.
The man whose body now lay in the Church of Santa Maria dei Monte had for several years been a familiar figure in Rome. Some had seen him lying in a hole under a stairway on the Quirinal, curled up like a large dog. Others had come across him in the Colosseum at night, when he let his den and went to sing litanies at the foot of that cross which commemorated the martyrs in the huge areas. Sometimes he lodged in a lowly hostel for down-and-outs run by a good priest; more often he fed himself on what he could get from dustbins. Who in fact was this beggar, and where did he come from?
His appearance was more than remarkable-at first sight repulsive. No one would have thought his rags had once been clothes; he stank to heaven, and it was unnecessary to go close to him in order to see that his chest was covered with lice. A careful observer, none the less, could detect a strange and mysterious nobility in his countenance, as if the spirit of childhood, to which the Kingdom has been promised, looked forth from those haggard features, from those sunken eyes, from those restless half-open lips.
What supernatural power flowed from him? Many priests had seen him praying for hours just inside or in the threshold of their churches, lost in ineffable meditation. Many a Layman too, after throwing a few coins into his bowl, had received from him, together with his thanks, such words as having moved their hearts. Young people and a number of religious declared that they had seen him in Ecstacy before the Blessed Sacrament, raised above the ground in defiance of the laws of gravity. Children, it was said, had been cured simply because he took them by the hand; and he was rumored to have uttered strange, prophetic words, foretelling that a terrible fire would soon devour his homeland, that the abbeys in which he had once lodged would go up in flames, that the sacred hosts would be profaned and the priests persecuted.
A Saint? Once when he chanced to overhear the word-il santo!, il santo!-- Benedict Labre fled in horror. He a saint? Why, he knew only too well that he was the most miserable of sinners. Yet we recognize him as a saint: the most extraordinary saint of his time, and the most significant as well. This man, who rejected all that his contemporaries loved most- material comfort, worldly pleasure, and intellectual pursuits- must surely be said to have been raised up by God for the express purpose of teaching the world a lesson.