Canonization of a New Saint
The Pioneer, July 20, 1881
The last mail from Europe informs us of the canonization of a new Saint who, if he takes his mundane habits to heaven, will be no savoury companion to the good souls under St. Peter’s guardianship. Just one hundred years ago, a Frenchman, named Benoit Labre, left La Trappe for Rome, making his way on foot, and certainly having no peas in his shoes for the good reason that he made the weary way all barefooted. In the capital of Christianity he adopted the modest calling of a mendicant. But, then, he was no mean and selfish beggarman. Benoit Labre took his daily post at the gates of the great churches. The alms or gifts he got, whether in cash or clothes or bread, he gave at once to the poor; though not to those poorer than himself, for none could be so. How then did he live? His food was the garbage of the Roman dust heaps. His clothing was the unpatched shreds of the miserable raiment he had brought from France. As to his intimate companionship it was awful: it was confined to the crawling vermin on his person, some of these are still preserved (not in life let us hope) at Rome, and are carried to sickbeds in emergencies, when recovery may be esteemed a miracle. The good Saint Anthony enjoyed the companionship of a pig. Pelisson relieved his solitude with a spider. Why should not the pious mendicant, now Saint Benoit Labre in heaven, comfort himself with the society of more minute fellow creatures in the ruins of Colosseum, where he slept every night? One day he was found dead at the gate of the church of Our Lady of the Mount, half devoured by the companions he encouraged about his person. He is credited with having performed miracles in his lifetime, and a solemn conclave of the church adjudged him divine honours. Last month the enlightened Leo XIII confirmed the canonization. Without grudging Saintship to any good man who may have made sacrifices for humanity, one may still feel a little surprised that a Pope from whom much was expected should have made out his first free pass for Paradise in favour of a personage representing a kind of virtue which the Nineteenth Century certainly cannot be expected to regard as best worth encouragement.