Turn to St. Benedict Joseph Labre for Help with Mental Illness
Within a few months of his death on April 16, 1783, there were 136 miracles attributed to St. Benedict Joseph Labre’s intercession.
We tend to think of saints as never having suffered depression, phobias, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness, but the truth is that people of all types of difficulties have become saints.
With mental illness in my family, I was interested to learn about a patron for those so afflicted — St. Benedict Joseph Labre.
Benedict was the eldest of 15 children, born in 1748 in France. From an early age he was devoted to God, and was disinterested in typical childish interests.
Considered odd, he turned to the Blessed Sacrament, our Blessed Mother, the Rosary and the Divine Office and prayed that he would be admitted to a monastery. In spite of his dedication, he was turned down over and over partly due to his eccentricity and partly due to his lack of an education. His profound disappointment was directed into journeying from shrine to shrine, spending days in Adoration in different churches.
He suffered from scrupulosity and ill health, but knowing he was viewed as different didn’t keep him from his great love of virtue. He practiced virtuous acts that would “make his soul a most perfect model and a copy of that of Our Divine Savior, Jesus Christ,” according to his biographer, Father Marconi, who was the saint’s confessor. He eventually became known throughout the city as the “Beggar of Rome.”
Father Marconi highlights the profound spirituality of his life as someone who embraced Jesus Christ. Benedict said we “ought to have, in some manner, three hearts founded upon, proceeding from, and concentrated in one; that is to say, one for God, another for his neighbor, and a third for himself.”
Benedict said that “the second heart must be faithful, generous and full of love and inflamed with love for our neighbor” We must be always ready to serve him; being always concerned for the soul of our neighbor. He again turns to the words of Benedict: “employed in sighs and prayers for the conversion of sinners and for the relief of the faithful departed.”
The third heart, Benedict said, “must be steady in its first resolutions, austere, mortified, zealous and courageous, continually offering itself in sacrifice to God.”
Within a few months of Benedict’s death at age 35 in 1783, there were 136 miracles attributed to his intercession.
For anyone suffering with mental illness or who has a family member with such an illness, you may find comfort and support in the Guild of St. Benedict Joseph Labre. The guild was started by the Duff family whose son Scott suffers from schizophrenia. Pope John Paul II blessed the guild's ministry and Father Benedict Groeschel was its spiritual director until his death.