Whew! The crisis caused by the new Corona virus has not yet completely disappeared, but we can certainly breathe a sigh of relief. A sigh of relief, we must admit, after months of restrictions and misery. A period that seemed to last forever.
One day in 1998, I received a letter from Alicia, a Friend of Brother Andre. Alicia lived in Aguascalientes, a village in Mexico. “From this village so far from Montréal, I give thanks from the bottom of my heart to our Lord for having heard my prayer through the intercession of Brother André and Saint Joseph.” “I bless the day that I was given to read the biography of Brother André. I found so much faith and trust in this ‘SAINT’ (Tuve mucha fe y confianza en este ‘SANTO’) and also in Saint Joseph. With them, a favor is quickly obtained.”
One day early in the year, after Mass, an older woman in a wheelchair made a gesture to call me over. She handed me an envelope and wished me a Happy New Year. She had a look on her face of pure serenity and peace. It made an impression on me.
How many times I went with my dad to P. A. Gouin, Pascal, Handy Andy, Léopold Duplessis or Canadian Tire to pick up a tool, some paint, a car part or all sorts of materials to repair, renovate or build something!
His workbench was just as carefully organized as the shelves at the hardware store: the nails and screws were categorized by their size and type. Everything was neatly ordered, and finding things was a snap.
Brother André had, like many people still today, his share of misery and misfortune. Orphaned by father and mother at the age of 12, sickly and uneducated, he had to work hard to earn his living and make his way. But he wasn’t destitute for all that.
One day I was visiting an old friend of mine. Long before I met her – when she was a mother of eight children and pregnant with a ninth – she lost her husband in a car accident. She was distraught and threw herself at the foot of her crucifix, begging, “Lord, don’t let me down! “At over 85 years of age, Alice was testifying to me that the Lord had never abandoned her. She told me, “You know, even though I live alone in my house, I am not afraid. In fact, I am never alone. The Lord is there, I feel Him very present at my side and with Him I am never worried about what may happen.” Her heart was full of hope and serenity about the future.
One day, Jesus led the apostles up a high mountain and he was transfigured in their presence. A voice was heard, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” The apostles felt within them such strength that they eagerly descended the mountain, ready to follow Jesus, putting their trust in him in their everyday life. They had understood the import of “Listen to the Father’s beloved Son.”
Since its foundation in 1904, the Oratory has closed its doors to the public only three times. Aside from the current closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Oratory also closed its doors for one week during the 1998 ice storm.
Father Marcel Lalonde, CSC, died on May 26, 2020, at the age of 93 years and 11 months, following a long illness at the Maison Basile-Moreau, a residence of the Canadian Province of Holy Cross in Montréal. With tireless zeal, Father Lalonde was the leader at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, of which he was rector for 30 years.
The month of May makes me recall a beautiful memory I have from my childhood — a hymn: Tis the month of Mary, the loveliest month; to the Dearest of Virgins let us sing a new song. In many homes, a statue, a picture, a rosary evokes her presence. Let us call upon her motherly protection, given the human drama we are presently experiencing.
Mary in the midst of our sorrow. Mary in the midst of our current preoccupations. A discreet presence, yet how reassuring and beneficial. Just as on the road leading to Calvary, the presence and the gaze of Mary gives us the stamina not to flail about despairingly in the face of the terrors of COVID 19. Mary’s gaze illumines and transforms every Way of the Cross into a Way of Hope, Resurrection, and Life.