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April 16 – Feast Day of the Patron Saint of the Homeless

Nelia Palma

The Congrégation de Notre-Dame’s mission statement includes the following inspiring and thought provoking lines: In today’s world, we commit ourselves to live simply and closer to the reality of the impoverished, the excluded and the oppressed.[1] April 16 is the feast day of a saint who turned his back on his comfortable life to become himself a mendicant, and thus become the patron saint of the homeless.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

Born: March 25, 1748 in Amettes in the north of France

Died: April 17, 1783 in Rome, Italy

Canonized: December 8, 1881, by Pope Leo XIII

Feast Day: April 16

Patron Saint of: the homeless

The Eldest of fifteen children, Benedict Joseph Labre, also known as “the beggar saint,” came from a prosperous middle-class family. As he matured, his parents ensured that he was provided with the finest education opportunities. As an adolescent, he was sent to live and study with his uncle, a priest, in Erin, France, where he undertook his early education for the priesthood. When his uncle died from an epidemic, he tried to enter the Trappist, Cistercian and Carthusian orders but was turned down because he was under age and because of his fragile health. In 1770, at the age of 22, sure that God had another plan for him, he left his home and his family to begin a new sort of life, one of poverty and pilgrimage. He set off on foot throughout Europe visiting various religious pilgrimage sites and shrines. During his travels, he would often sleep with only the stars over him and sustain himself with whatever he could find. He refused alms and gave anything in excess of what he needed to the poor. In 1774, he finally settled in Rome where he lived on the streets near the Coliseum and earned fame for his sanctity. He is said to have cured some of the other homeless he met and to have multiplied bread for them. He became a familiar figure in the city and was known for his dedication to Eucharistic adoration. As his health failed him, he was forced to seek refuge in a hospice for the destitute. There he died of malnutrition at the age of 35. Due to his popularity, his body was laid in state for nearly a week and was visited by thousands.



[1] 2011-2016 Chapter booklet, p. 8


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