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Real Success

Benedict Joseph Labre lived in pre-revolution France, struggled with mental illness virtually his entire life, failed each of the eleven times he tried to enter religious life, lost touch with his family, lived as a homeless person for his adult years, survived on what he could collect as a beggar, and died of malnutrition at 35 years-old. Success?  Only if you consider sainthood a worthwhile accomplishment. Less than 100 years after his death Labre was canonized. But for what? Labre’s life reads like a tragic story of failure that makes you want to cry.  If he was living today, he’d be the dirty, anonymous, slightly scary-looking man at the bottom of the freeway offramp you try not to make eye contact with as you idle at the red light.   His life was not exactly the stuff of comic book heroes, or feel-good movies, or popular television.   But that’s not ultimately what success is.  We can easily lose sight of this in a culture that is so hell-bent on looking good and feeling superior. Benedict shared with everyone he met on the pilgrimage routes of Europe; a kind word to the weary, a message of hope to the forlorn, even the food and clothes he’d been given to those who seemed hungrier and colder than he.  And when he was attacked and beaten, which happened often, he gave forgiveness. What is success for you?  What does it look like?    This mentally ill, homeless, beggar-saint with the heart of gold reminds us that success is not about what we collect, what we can count, and what we control.  Success is about what we give.   Benedict Joseph Labre is a hero you should know.   Merry Christmas!

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