Skip to comments.St. André Bessette [his *first* feast day...hooray!]
Posted on 01/05/2011 6:48:12 AM PST by mlizzy
Brother André expressed a saints faith by a lifelong devotion to St. Joseph.
Sickness and weakness dogged André from birth. He was the eighth of 12 children born to a French Canadian couple near Montreal. Adopted at 12, when both parents had died, he became a farmhand. Various trades followed: shoemaker, baker, blacksmithall failures. He was a factory worker in the United States during the boom times of the Civil War.
At 25, he applied for entrance into the Congregation of the Holy Cross. After a years novitiate, he was not admitted because of his weak health. But with an extension and the urging of Bishop Bourget (see Marie-Rose Durocher, October 6), he was finally received. He was given the humble job of doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, with additional duties as sacristan, laundry worker and messenger. When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained 40 years.
In his little room near the door, he spent much of the night on his knees. On his windowsill, facing Mount Royal, was a small statue of St. Joseph, to whom he had been devoted since childhood. When asked about it he said, Some day, St. Joseph is going to be honored in a very special way on Mount Royal!
When he heard someone was ill, he visited to bring cheer and to pray with the sick person. He would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the college chapel. Word of healing powers began to spread.
When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, André volunteered to nurse. Not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. I do not cure, he said again and again. St. Joseph cures. In the end he needed four secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year.
For many years the Holy Cross authorities had tried to buy land on Mount Royal. Brother André and others climbed the steep hill and planted medals of St. Joseph. Suddenly, the owners yielded. André collected 200 dollars to build a small chapel and began receiving visitors theresmiling through long hours of listening, applying St. Josephs oil. Some were cured, some not. The pile of crutches, canes and braces grew.
The chapel also grew. By 1931 there were gleaming walls, but money ran out. Put a statue of St. Joseph in the middle. If he wants a roof over his head, hell get it. The magnificent Oratory on Mount Royal took 50 years to build. The sickly boy who could not hold a job died at 92.
He is buried at the Oratory and was beatified in 1982. At his canonization in October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said that St. Andre "lived the beatitude of the pure of heart."
Like Brother John, Brother Andre (whose feast day is January 6th) didn't seem to "do" much, at least as far as important university stuff goes. When Andre took his final vows in February of 1874, he was assigned to the College of Our Lady of the Snows -- as a janitor! Andre spent 40 years there, never to be a professor or amount to much professionally (besides being a janitor, he also served as a barber, gardener and nurse's aide) but through his humility, charity and infinite patience (and devotion to St. Joseph), Andre began to work miracles for those he came in contact with. Brother Andre died in 1937, but the older brothers at Notre Dame still remembered him, and one or two did survive to see him beatified by JPII in May of 1982 -- which probably carried the same thrill for them as my son will feel if his Fighting Irish win the National Championship again someday in football.Happy first feast day, Andre!!!
Yet this simple saint, Saint (Brother) Andre Bessette, who worked as a janitor, because of his devotion to Saint Joseph, made the legendary Oratory of St. Joseph possible. That shrine is SO LARGE, that there is elevators that go up and down, just like a major skyscraper!
I remember reading about him in October. Thanks for this!
Have a blessed day!
New Canadian Saint
Novena, Exemplifications in Honor of Brother André
|Brother André Bessette of Montreal will soon become the first Canadian-born male saint|
In October 1921, a Columbia article titled The Miracle Man of Mount Royal noted that Knights of Columbus, 10,000 strong, made a pilgrimage to the Crypt of St. Joseph earlier that year. The article, which praised the saintliness of the humble lay brother known as Frère André, prophetically concluded with these words: Some day this church on the mountainside, successor to the little wooden oratory of Frère André, will be the glorious basilica of St. Joseph, and the little miracle man of Mount Royal will probably be enshrined as the saint which every soul in Quebec believes him to be.
Now, nearly 90 years later, Brother André Bessette will become the first Canadian-born male saint when he is canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 17, 2010. Brother André shared a close connection with the Knights of Columbus during his lifetime, and he serves as a model for Knights today as they grow in charity and devote themselves more closely to St. Joseph.
BROTHERS IN SPIRIT
Brother André was born Alfred Bessette on Aug. 9, 1845, in Saint-Grégoire dIberville, Quebec. He was the ninth of 13 children and suffered from many health ailments during his youth. Amid these periods of sickness, Alfreds mother instilled in him a devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph and he became the subject of misunderstanding and ridicule. At the age of nine, Alfred lost his father to a work-related accident. His mother died three years later of tuberculosis. Separated from his brothers and sisters, Alfred began living with an aunt and uncle, Timothée and Marie-Rosalie Nadeau of Saint-Césaire.
Although they probably never met, Brother André and the Knights founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, shared much in common as spiritual brothers. Both were born in the mid-19th century to poor families; both suffered from fragile health throughout their lives; and both devoted themselves to the poor and the needy. Young Alfred Bessette even spent some time in New England states including Connecticut, where he labored in a textile mill before returning to Canada in 1867. A year later, Michael McGivney likewise traveled from Connecticut to Quebec, where he entered the Seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe, located about 40 miles east of what would become the site of St. Josephs Oratory on Mount Royal.
Alfred entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal on Dec. 27, 1870. His permanent presence in this teaching community seemed far from certain, especially given his frail health and lack of formal education. The latter was evident in the tasks he was given. Upon entering the community, Brother André became the doorman of Notre Dame College and also served as a nurse, barber, caretaker and even gravedigger.
Through his duties at the school, Brother André was asked to receive visitors, including many sick people seeking solace and help. Françoise Deroy-Pineau wrote in her biography, Frère André, un saint parmi nous (Brother André, A Saint Among Us), His job as a light maintenance man put him in charge of handling the oil that burned in front of the altar and certain statues, especially the statue of St. Joseph. A symbol of faith and prayer when it is used by the sick, this oil would come to play a significant role in Brother Andrés work. Like the St. Joseph medals that he carried, the oil often accompanied the healings and the miracles that Brother André attributed to St. Josephs intercession.
As word spread of a healing religious figure at Notre Dame College, people began to visit Brother André. At first, he greeted them at the school, which caused irritation among his colleagues and the parents of students there. This, in turn, gave rise to a spirited opposition that made Brother André the target of many jeers. Some people began calling him a crazy old man, a charlatan or even the oily brother.
In 1895, when a tramway line was constructed in front of Notre Dame, at the base of Mont-Royal, and a shelter was built to receive travelers, Brother André obtained permission to greet the sick people who arrived at the station. According to one biographer, Micheline Lachance, he began greeting as many as 300 visitors per day. In thanksgiving for the many favors obtained through St. Josephs intercession, Brother André began forming a plan to build an oratory dedicated to the earthly father of Jesus.
The gifts he received from many of his grateful visitors allowed Brother André to erect a wooden chapel on Mount Royal in 1904. Several expansion projects followed. Construction of the Crypt, the first phase of the oratory, began in 1915, but Brother André encountered numerous difficulties while planning future expansions. The economic crisis caused by the stock market crash of 1929 forced the worksite to close from 1931-37. Despite this and other obstacles, Brother André remained steadfast in his vision. Brother André died on Jan. 6, 1937, without seeing the oratory complete. The building was not finished until 1967, but at the time of Brother Andrés death 30 years earlier, his work was already known beyond the borders of Quebec and Canada. He was beatified May 23, 1982, by Pope John Paul II, and nearly 2 million people visit St. Josephs Oratory each year.
SONS OF BROTHER ANDRÉ
Father Jean-Guy Dubuc, a priest of the Diocese of Montreal, is one of many writers who have discussed Brother Andrés timidity and modesty. In his book Brother Andre: Friend of the Suffering, Apostle of St. Joseph, he noted that Brother André hated to be photographed and was loath to be interviewed. There were, however, some notable exceptions. In her biography of Brother André, Deroy-Pineau wrote that the friar liked to be photographed with his friends, among whom she lists the Knights of Columbus.
On April 16, 1923, the daily Montreal newspaper La Presse published a large group photo of more than 300 members of Lafontaine Council 1356 who were visiting the Crypt of St. Joseph on pilgrimage. Father Édouard Laurin, who gave the homily during the Mass, noted that the spirit of faith is lacking in a large number of families that have nonetheless received religious instruction. He urged the Knights to be worthy of their name, to pray, to lead by example and, if necessary, to bring non-believers back to the faith by asking St. Joseph to inspire in them the same spirit of conviction experienced by the child Jesus while under his care.
Between 1916 and 1935, there were no fewer than 11 K of C pilgrimages that originated from as close as Quebec and as far away as California. One entry in the oratory archives notes a visit of the Knights of Columbus on Aug. 8, 1923. Twelve buses and more than 200 automobiles brought [the Knights] to the ceremony at 3 p.m. Veneration of the relic went on uninterrupted from 3:30 to 5:30. Knights today are as close to Brother André as they were nearly a century ago. At the Orders 128th Supreme Convention, held Aug. 3-5 in Washington, D.C., delegates adopted a resolution in honor of Brother Andrés canonization. The resolution read, in part, that Knights of Columbus will learn from Brother André and from St. Joseph what it is to care for Jesus through acts of charity for the sick and the afflicted and that Knights will honor the vision of Brother André through a commitment to charity, unity and fraternity.
During a homily at the oratory on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, Archbishop André Gaumond of Sherbrooke, Quebec, spoke of St. Joseph as the quiet man, while in todays society we have all become very talkative. The archbishop, who is a member of St-Pamphile (Quebec) Council 3075, added, St. Joseph understands his historic mission by depending on faith. These traits found in St. Joseph are mirrored in the personality of Brother André and in the work performed by the Knights of Columbus. More often than not, these works of faith are accomplished discreetly and far away from the public eye.
Brother André was a man who distinguished himself by his fraternal hospitality, wrote Holy Cross Father Jean-Guy Vincent in a recent article. Throughout his life, he welcomed all kinds of suffering people, and he showed them great compassion. Brother André was an active witness, a welcoming host, a man of compassion, a man of prayer, a builder and unifier of people, added Father Vincent, who is a member of Pointe Claire (Quebec) Council 4832.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul wrote, If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Cor 13:3). The compassion of Brother André was a living expression of this virtue of charity, which is also the first principle of the Knights of Columbus. The man who made Montreal the worldwide capital of devotion to St. Joseph embodied, even while he was living, this civilization of love that we are called to embrace each day. Marc Nadeau is the grand knight of Notre-Dame-du-Perpétuel-Secours Council 9825 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and works in the field of communications and public affairs.
For we French-Canadians St. Andre (WOW!) has been a bigger than life figure for decades.
My family has been blessed by our opportunity to visit the Oratory often and for favors granted.
Thanks for the ping Coleus.
Wonderful! I wonder if his medal has been struck yet (I’m sure it must have, even as a blessed) ... we’re going to check into that soon ... we have a great outlet for medals; they’re done well, do not cost very much, yet don’t look cheap ...
We first learned of Blessed Andre when we visited Montreal in 1985, and went to the Oratory on Mount Royal. What a beautiful place!
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