Saint Frère André CSC - Alfred Bessette
1845 - 1936
Jubilant! That's the best word to describe this day as we memebers of the Congreation of Holy Cross gather to celebrate with the universal church something that long known - that one of our own is a saint!
By Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC - October 17, 2010
While the secular press these days eems especially quick to discredit religion and its iconic figures, let a TIME magazine article from a gentler era set the stage for the great event we celebrate today. In its May 21 1973 edition TIME announced, in an article entitle "Brother André's Heart." what they little knew would be fitting preface to his canonication."St. Joseph's Oratory in Montréal www.saint-joseph.org looks like Cecil B. DeMille's idea of a cathedral. Enthroned on Mount Royal, the city's highest hill, the oratory is begger thatn Notre Dame, its dome only slightly smaller that St. Peter's. It tool six master architects 52 years - from 1915 to 1967 - to erect, and among its accouterments are the carillon built for the Eiffel Tower, one of the world's largest organs, two wax musieums, three banks of escalators, acres of free parking and a restaurant supervised by a full-time French chef.
Star of the oratory, and the subject of much of its religous chrome plating, is the man for whom it was built - a semilliterate French-Canadian orphan named Alfred Bessette, better know as "Brother André, the miracled man of Mount Royal. (A Holy Cross Brother, André) served for 40 years as doorkeeper and handyman of Notre Dame College, a boys' school at the fott of the hill. He as humble, devout and frail, a sufferer from chronic (stomach ailments). But he had, it is claimed, miraculous healing powers.
By invoking the favors of St. Joseph, his paront saint, and handing out bottles of sacramental olive oil, Brother André reportedly cured as many as 15,000 crippled, blind and dying pilgrims a year. When he died in 1937, at the age of 91, half a million people filed past his (body), and Brother André was put up for sainthood. His case is still pending in the Vatican. At the oratory, in the meantime, he is being accorded the full trappings of a saint. The oratory publishes a comic book about his life, sells bottles of his "St. Joseph's oi", and maintains a tiny wooden chapel that is built as a holy place. Inside the (church), 3,000,000 ilgrims a yearfile pst his marble tomb.
As an update to this article, while Br. André's case was, indeed, still pending in 1973, on May 23, 1982, "The Miracle Man of Mount Royal" was declared "Blessed" and today, in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI will proclaim him the newest saint in the church, the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to be so recognized. And not to gorget Br. André's heart - which was found and returned to St. Joseph's Oratory not long after the theft, the perpetrators never having been discovered.
The gospel passage we hear today begins with the simple declaration "Jesus told his disciples a prable about the necessity for them to pray always and not to lose heart". (Luke 18:1). And then follows as is often the case, a story to illustrate the lesson Jesus wishes to teach his disciples. Today, though, it seems especially apropos to look not to the gospen parable for the lesson about pesistence at prayer but to the life of St. André Bessette. Indeed, in his own lifetime, this holy man ws a living parable, serving as heavenly messenger between desperate prayers spoken and God's gracious answer given. The thousands who approached André during his lifetime seeking relief from suffering were counseled to persevere at prayer through the interecession of St. Joseph. The fct that the number of thos seeking a cure only increased over the eyars and even more so after André's death attests both to the holiness of this man and also the veracity of the healings that resulted from heeding his advice to esist in prayer and not lose heart.
Perhaps TIME magazine published its 1973 article more for its sensationalism than for its testimony to holiness. I mean, what a macabre crime! Thieves were never found; no ranson was ever demanded; and the heart was found quickly and returned to the Oratory. Maybe no that Brother André has been canonized, an author or moviemaker wil take up the story and make some big bucks off it.
Allow me, please, to propose my own theory based on the closing of the TIME article which states,The thief may have been doing Brother André a favor. Enshrined in the templed glories of package-tour religion, the humble lay brothers' heart was painfully out of place.Indeed, let me suggest a fantastic ending to the mysterious crime: St. André Bessette was himself the thief!
A heart as expansive as his was never meant to be secured behind heavy glass, iron bars and security alarms. In his lifetime, Brother André was a simple man who walked among the suffering, recommedning prayer to God through the intercession of St. Joseph. The great church he built to honor St. Joseph was meant to do jus that - honor St. Joseph, not the Holy Cross Brothers who built it. Indeed, André's great heart yearns to walk among the suffering as he continues to be a hevenly messenger between desperate prayers spoken and God's gracious answer given.
Reprinted from www.holycrosscongreation.org on October 8, 2010.
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