|St Benoit Labre|
Many of our volunteers and guests ask us why we are called Benedict Labre House... so we have decided to write a brief history of our name sake - St. Benoît Joseph Labre. He was born on March 26, 1748 in Amettes, France and died in Rome on April 16, 1783. He was the eldest of fifteen children. His parents belonged to the middle class and therefore were able to provide good opportunities for their children in terms of education. His early training was received in his native village by the vicar of the parish. He was reputed to having exhibited a seriousness of thought and demeanor far beyond his years. At the age of twelve he went to live with his uncle, the curé of Erin, and was taught by him.
During the following six years he advanced his studies in Latin and history, but found himself unable to conquer a constantly growing distaste for any form of knowledge which did not make directly for union with God. A love of solitude, a generous employment of austerities and devotedness to his religious exercises were discernable as distinguishing features of his life. At the age of 16 he resolved to embrace a religious life as a Trappist, but received considerable impediment from his parents. For three years he tried unsuccessfully to enter the cloister, but continued to make petition at various monasteries. In November, 1769 he obtained admission to the Cistercian Abbey of Sept-Fonts, but shortly thereafter his health gave way and it was decided that his vocation lay elsewhere.
During his convalescence he resolved to pursue his calling and set out for Rome. En route he seemed to have an internal illumination which set at rest forever any doubts he might have as to what method of living was to be. He then understood that it was God's will to abandon his country, his parents and whatever is flattering in the world to lead a new sort of life, a life most painful, most penitential, not in a wilderness nor in a cloister, but in the midst of the world, devoutly visiting as a pilgrim the famous places of Christian devotion. Through the years he never wavered in the conviction that this was his path appointed by God. He set out on his life journey with an old coat, a rosary about his neck, another between his fingers, his arms folded over a crucifix which lay upon his breast. He carried a small testament and a copy of the "Imitation of Christ" and some other pious books. For food he satisfied himself once a day on some bread and herbs. He never asked for alms and was anxious to give away to the poor whatever he received in excess.His unremitting and ruthless self-denial, his unaffected humility, unhesitating obedience and perfect spirit of union with God in prayer disarmed suspicion not unnaturally aroused as to the genuineness of a Divine call to so extraordinary a way of existence.