During the Age of Enlightenment, parishes and monasteries were well managed and people were devout. Many people were educated. However, the French Revolution was just around the corner. Violence seemed inevitable.
Benedict Joseph Labre was born March 26, 1748, in a small village in northwest France. He studied under his uncle to become a priest. He was the oldest of 15 children. His parents wanted him to stay nearby, but when he was 18 he got consent from his parent to go to a Trappist monastery.
This was a long series of disappointments. Benedict felt he was called to a minimalist form of religious life. There were always conflicts that kept Benedict from this kind of life. God did not want Benedict to live that kind of life.
He feels like he has failed. God finally revealed what was wanted from him. Benedict was ready for God’s will. He never returned home. He abandoned his country, and his parents and lived like a hermit. He carried only a few religious books, no food, and no extra clothing. He slept on the ground, usually in the open air, but occasionally in a barn or shed. He ate bits of bread and scraps of vegetables either given to him by charity or taken from a garbage heap. He never accepted the money. He gave away everything that he did not need to the poor.
People asked who was the beggar, who would accept no money? Who was this ragged man who read Latin? People who met him wondered and thought he was someone important.
God knew men were entering a time of individualism. Benedict told people to turn away from their foolish ways. Benedict never made speeches. He was an example of being about God’s will.
Two years before the French Revolution Benedict Joseph Labre collapsed on the steps of a church in Rome. He died there of malnutrition and exhaustion on April 16, 1783, during Holy Week, and was buried in the Church of Santa Maria ai Monti.