St. Benedict Joseph Labre
This French saint, born in 1748, led a most unusual life. He was the son of a store owner and was taught by his uncle, a priest. When the good priest died, Benedict tried to enter a monastery. However, he was told he was too young. Then he contacted another order of monks. He loved the life of prayer and penance. But when he joined them, Benedict became thin and frail. It was suggested that he return home to lead a good Christian life. He went home and slowly gained back his health. He prayed for God's help. Then he felt he was given an answer. He would become a pilgrim, a person on a holy journey of prayer and penance. As a pilgrim, he would travel to the famous shrines of Europe.
Benedict began his journey on foot. He visited one church after another. He wore a plain cloth robe, a crucifix over his heart and a rosary around his neck. He slept on the bare ground. The only food he had was what kind people gave him. If they gave him money, he passed it on to the poor. His "suitcase" was a sack. In it he carried his own Gospel, as well as medals and holy books to give to others. St. Benedict paid no attention to the beautiful sights in the cities he visited. His only interest was in the churches where Jesus dwelt in the Blessed Sacrament.
As the years passed, St. Benedict looked more and more like a beggar. He was ragged and dirty. He ate crusts of bread and potato peels. He never asked for anything that would make his life more comfortable. In some places, children threw stones at him and called him names. People who didn't know him tended to avoid him. But when St. Benedict knelt in front of the tabernacle, he became as still as a statue. His pale, tired face glowed. He would talk to Jesus and to the Blessed Mother. He would whisper, "Mary, O my Mother!" He was truly happy when he was keeping Jesus and the Blessed Mother company.
He died in 1783 at the age of thirty-five. The fame of this poor holy man spread far and wide. His journey had ended. The pilgrimage was over and he would be with Jesus and Mary forever. A century after his death, St. Benedict Joseph Labre was proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII in 1883.
Mary, O my Mother!" We can make this whisper of love to Mary our own and think of her often.