New book about Fr Doyle in French!

The last few months have seen an incredible and unexpected new level of output related to the life and spirit of Fr Doyle. Firstly, Worshipper and Worshipped, a major new biography, was published in November 2013. Then in January 2014 the Catholic Truth Society published an excellent ans accessible new biography of Fr Doyle. And now, a new 150 page, lavishly designed, full colour book about Fr Doyle has been published in French! 

The full text of the book can be found here:  Amis de Saint Benoit Labre Even if you can’t speak French it is worth looking at it!

The book is published by the Amis de St Benoit Labre, and commemorates Fr Doyle’s devotion to this wonderful saint. It is presented on this site today to commemorate Benedict Labre’s feast day.

The author of the book is Didier Noel; here is a short article from him on the Amis de St Benoit Labre, with a discussion on his motivation for producing the book. Enjoy.

Today is Saint Benedict-Joseph Day; this year April 16th is on a holy Wednesday, and he died in Rome on a Wednesday too, on April 16th, 1783.

The day when he died, the children suddenly ran in the streets of Rome and said loud: “The holy man is dead! The holy man is dead!” His miraculous healings and conversions were soon recognized. For example, the conversion to Catholicism of a Presbyterian minister called John Thayer. The Roman Catholic Church has recognized the holiness of Saint Benedict-Joseph Labre’s life and canonized him on December 8th, 1881. During his lifetime, a lot of baptized people were inspired by him.

He’s the patron Saint of spiritual groups and he inspires them within their apostolic actions. He was chosen as a patron Saint by a lot of parishes, places of worship as well as many charities. His name was finally given to streets or places to remember of many places where he went and to refer to prominent events in his life.

April 16th is a great opportunity for Christians to meet together at his birthplace; among these Christians you can find the “Friends of Saint Benedict Labre”. We are a spiritual family founded on mutual friendship and prayers for each other, which makes our unity stronger. In addition to that day, there is a big novena in Amettes, where he was born, once in a year beginning on the last Sunday in August until the next Sunday in September.

And actually I have been writing for years many published works on the web for the two associations of Amettes in France and Amos in Canada during my holiday after having travelled and visited a lot of places where Saint Benedict-Joseph Labre has been. The main purpose of this published work on the web called “Byways” consists in collecting all traces of Saint Benedict Labre’s European travels. As part of this whole work, I’ve written the first number of a new edition called “Light on the way” in order to give importance to the spiritual influence of the holy pilgrim’s life among Christians and many priests who have chosen him as a patron Saint in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Fr William Doyle received a grace in the bedroom of the holy Pilgrim in Amettes. Fr Doyle had a real human soul in which we can feel the deep unity of a holy icon: body and soul were deeply connected … the human part and the divine part together… Remembering his story and reviving his memory in the heart of “Saint Benedict Labre’s Friends” was very meaningful to me. As a military chaplain, Fr Doyle set his heart on serving God among men.

Suffering is a kind of test, a kind of a way to sanctification. Fr Doyle’s personality puts us in the mind of the holy pilgrim of Amettes for whom he had a great and glorious devotion.

While you’re reading my published work about Father Doyle, you’ll get to know that his visit in Saint Benedict Labre’s birthplace (1916 – 1917) has changed his life. Saint Benedict Labre has become a pillar of Fr Doyle’s ministry during which he was confronted every day with evil and real suffering in the war.

A long time ago I visited Amettes and in a spiritual way, I have “met” Benedict-Joseph, God’s holy beggar. In his small house I’ve learnt how to manage my life, I’ve learnt the meaning of life.

Like Father William Doyle, I was deeply impressed by the feeling of Benedict Labre’s real presence … even until now.

Introducing him to all of you is my life purpose, a kind of quest; this is my tribute too for all friends of Father William Doyle so that I can make him “shine” more and more. It’s for me another way of building tomorrow’s Church. This is Benedict-Joseph Labre’s message too on the way to a new evangelization.

 If you want to join “Saint Benedict Labre Friends”, you just have to:

  •  Know Saint Benedict Labre’s life by reading one the several published biographies.

(Have a look at his biography on the following website:

 Afterwards please ask yourself how far Saint Benedict Labre’s life inspires your Christian life?

 If you want to be registered in the Friends’ list, please send an email to Father Raymond Martel at this following address:

P.S. Don’t forget to write your first and last names as well as the country where you’re living in.

Your name will be then published on the “Saint Benedict Labre’s Friends” website.

Of course, your email-address won’t be published for reasons of confidentiality.


St Benedict Joseph Labre
St Benedict Joseph Labre

Thoughts on St Benedict Joseph Labre from Fr Willie Doyle

St Benedict Joseph Labre
St Benedict Joseph Labre

Second pilgrimage to Amettes from Locre. During the journey I felt our Lord wanted to give me some message through St. Benedict Joseph Labre. No light came while praying in the Church or in the house; but when I went up to his little room and knelt down a voice seemed to whisper “Read what is written on the wall.” I saw these words: “God calls me to an austere life; I must prepare myself to follow the ways of God.” With these words came a sudden light to see how much one gains by every act of sacrifice, that what we give is not lost; but the enjoyment (increased a thousand fold) is only postponed. This filled me with extraordinary consolation which lasted all day. 

COMMENT: Today is normally the feast of St Benedict Joseph Labre, though of course it is superseded by Holy Week this year. Fr Doyle had a great devotion to this saint – in one letter he outlines what he felt was a “strange devotion” that he felt to this saint, even as a boy. 

St Benedict Joseph Labre was a beggar; in the following quote from another of Fr Doyle’s letters home from the war he shows us his affection for this saint, as well as his own personal humour: 

I spent most of the next day wandering around the country, with a visit to the home and shrine of the beggarman saint, Benedict Joseph Labre. I often think he must be nearly mad with envy watching us in the trenches, surrounded, walked on and sat upon by his ‘pets’. But from the same pets deliver us, O Lord, as speedily as may be, this coming hot weather! 

The pets to which Fr Doyle refers are presumably fleas, lice and other creep crawlies.

There are two lessons that we may take from today’s quote and feast. 

Firstly, the obvious message relates to austerity, a particularly relevant one in this era in which there is much talk of financial austerity. God called both St Benedict Joseph Labre and Fr Doyle to a distinct type of austerity. We can be sure that we are also called to our own particular type of austerity, but this will vary from person to person and will correspond with our state in life. It is almost certainly the case that we are called to a different, and lesser, type of austerity – it would be wrong for someone to attempt to copy Fr Doyle or St Benedict Joseph. But as St Francis de Sales tells us, our cross is made specifically for us, so whatever austerity we are asked to bear, it will stretch us and help to perfect us, even if it is not as objectively severe as serving as a chaplain in the trenches or living homeless on the streets of Rome. However, we must remember that whatever austerity we live with, it should never make us sour or unpleasant. Those who knew Fr Doyle always remarked on his cheerfulness and his good humour – his presence was a source of courage for the soldiers. So too with St Benedict Joseph Labre – despite his dirt and his poverty and austerity, his presence was a source of light to all those whom he encountered. Would that others would say the same of us!

The second lesson is that the call to holiness is universal. St Benedict Joseph Labre was a distinctly odd young man. He was certainly intelligent and very well read, but he chose (or felt called to) the life of a tramp. Some people even suggest that he was mentally disturbed, although perhaps that is going a bit too far. Nonetheless, the point remains that the young man who was not accepted into several monasteries and who wandered the roads of Europe visiting shrines and living homeless in Rome for a decade, far away from his family, was recognised by the Church as a saint worthy of honour and with virtues worthy of imitation. Truly there is wonderful diversity in the Church! 

Pope Francis has spoken many times since his election about the poor. Today’s feast reminds us that everyone, including the poor, are called to be saints, and that those who are materially poor can be spiritually rich.

On my last visit to Rome I had the great privilege of being able to visit the house where St Benedict Joseph Labre died – he was taken to this house after he collapsed on the steps of a nearby church (he is now buried in that same church). It took some effort to find this spot, but it was worth it. I have had the honour in life of visiting many out-of-the-way places in Rome – the kind of places that don’t always show up in guidebooks. Often these are the best spots in Rome! Out of all of these locations I would consider this particular place to be one of the most beautiful and peaceful I had ever visited. Members of a secular institute now live in this house and they preserve relics associated with St Benedict Joseph with great care. Below is a photo of the bed on which the saint died.

St Benedict Joseph Labre bed

Finally, it is worth noting that today is also the birthday of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – he is 87. We should remember him in our prayers today.

Thoughts for Spy Wednesday from Fr Willie Doyle

I think He would like you to pay more attention to little things, looking on nothing as small, if connected with His service and worship. Also try to remember that nothing is too small to offer to Him — that is, the tiniest act of self-conquest is of immense value in His eyes, and even lifting one’s eyes as an act of love brings great grace.

COMMENT: Despite the fact that Fr Doyle lived a very dramatic life that involved many big sacrifices, he consistently preached that holiness is normally to be found in little things. In fact, without having strived for holiness in little things, it is doubtful that Fr Doyle would have been capable of his heroism in the trenches.

At first glance, it seems that reflecting on little things during this most momentous Holy Week is a bit a strange. But today’s Gospel contains a subtle reference to the value of little sacrifices and offerings. Given the drama of the Passion, it is easy to miss it.

Go ye into the city to a certain man and say to him: The master says, My time is near at hand. With thee I make the pasch with my disciples. And the disciples did as Jesus appointed to them: and they prepared the pasch.

Who was this “certain man” who provided the room for the Last Supper? We do not know. He is not named. But what is clear is that he did an important service for our Lord by providing the room for the Last Supper. What an honour it would be to have provided the room for the Last Supper! This unknown man, humble and hidden, served Jesus in a most special way. He obviously knew Jesus and was ready to serve Him however he was asked. Yet he remains unknown to us. This is the secret of holiness in little things – providing humble and unknown service, without seeking any attention or fame.

As Fr Doyle tells us, nothing is too small to offer to Him.

In conclusion it might be appropriate today to include Fr Doyle’s “parable” of the hermit and the “recording angel”. He included this little parable in one of his very last letters home to his father, and it tells us of the value of little things by way of an amusing story.

In the good old days of yore a holy hermit built him a cell in a spot a few miles from the well, so that he might have a little act of penance to offer to Almighty God each day by tramping across the hot sand and back again with his pitcher. All went gaily for a while, and if the holy man did lose many a drop of honest sweat he knew he was piling up sacks of treasure in Heaven, and his heart was light. But though the spirit was willing, the sun was very warm, the sand most provokingly hot, the pitcher the devil and all of a weight, and the road seemingly longer each day. It is a bit too much of a good joke, thought the man of God, to tramp these miles day in and day out, with my old bones, clanking like a traction engine. Why not move the cell to the edge of the water, save time (and much bad language probably) and have cool water in abundance, and a dry hair shirt on my back?

Away home he faced for the last time with his brimming water jar, kicking the sand about in sheer delight, for the morrow would see him on the trek, and an end to his weary trudging, when suddenly he heard a voice, an angel’s voice he knew it to be, counting slowly One, two, three, four. The hermit stopped in wonder and so did the voice, but at the next steps he took the counting began again, Five, six, seven. Falling on his knees the old man prayed that he might know the meaning of this wonder. ‘I am the angel of God’, came the answer, ‘counting up each step which long ago you offered up to my Lord and Master, so that not a single one may lose its reward. Don’t be so foolish as to throw away the immense merit you are gaining, by moving your cell to the water’s edge, for know that in the eyes of the heavenly court nothing is small which is done or borne for the love of God.’

That very night down came the hermit’s hut, and before morning broke he had built it again five miles further from the well. For all I know he is merrily tramping still backwards and forwards across the burning sand, very hot and tired no doubt, but happy in the thought that the recording angel is busy counting each step.