Tag Archives: Benedict Joseph Labre

Homeless saint Benedict

Today is the feast of St. Benedict-Joseph Labré who died on April 16, 1783, in Rome.

Like the holy fools of Russia, he was for many years a wandering pilgrim – carrying his rosary, a breviary, a New Testament, and the Imitation of Christ. He did not beg but when someone gave him more than he needed he shared it with the poor. He is thus considered the patron saint of the homeless.

He lived many years in Rome, sleeping first in a Coliseum and then in a home when he was ill. He fell mortally ill at the church of Saint Maria dei Monte and died in the nearby house of a butcher who took him in.

When I was in Rome in 2013 I visited the church where his body is buried. No one else was there but I felt a real desire to honor this poor man totally devoted to God.

I noted the image of Mary over the altar but not until this morning did I realize that Mary is flanked by two deacons, Lawrence and Stephen, and Augustine and Francis are kneeling before her. St. Benedict had a great devotion to this image.


St. Benedict Joseph Labré was rejected by several monasteries but is claimed by the Franciscans since he was a Cord-Bearer, a confraternity connected with the followers of St. Francis.

As I contemplate possible ordination as a deacon, a servant, I think of St. Benedict Joseph Labré and ask for his inspiration. I also look with wonder at the image of Mary and remember the witness of the two deacons – serving God and God’s people, especially the poor – men and women like St. Benedict, men and women whom St. Francis honored.

And I ask for the gifts of generosity and detachment – which is the closest I think I can get to the poverty of St. Benedict and St. Francis.


Photograph taken February 16, 2013, by author.


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Patron of the homeless

One of the churches I visited in Rome two years ago was Santa Maria ai Monti, where St. Benedict Joseph Labre is buried. He fainted there on April 16, 1784, and died soon after in a nearby house at the age of 35. He is buried there.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre

Deemed too frail or talentless by several religious orders, he became a wandering pilgrim. The Franciscan claim him as a Cordbearer, a Franciscan confraternity.

He lived among the poor and beggars, noted for his piety, especially his devotion to the Eucharist, and for sharing his food with the poor.

I read of St. Benedict Joseph many years ago and a friend told me of his devotion to this unlikely saint.

The visit to his tomb was for me a blessing – especially since the tomb and the church were bathed in sunlight.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre

Benedict Joseph shows us that holiness can be lived anywhere – and that we need to open our eyes and our hearts to those who appear the least likely to reflect the presence of the holiness of God.