Brother André for Life
In their editions on Thursday, January 31, 1924, La Presse and La Patrie newspapers each announced the festivities planned for Saturday, February 2, to celebrate the 50 years of religious life of Brother André and Brother Marie-Antoine.
The presented program included a grand solemn Mass at 9:30 am in the Oratory’s Crypt Church, followed by an intimate banquet at Collège Notre-Dame. In the articles published the day after the celebration, journalists and columnists agreed that this anniversary had all the elements of a great manifestation of joy.
Portrait of a Man and His Work
It is interesting to see how the press of that time approached the event. Le Devoir painted a portrait of Brother André’s personal and religious life. It mentioned the favors obtained through prayers to Saint Joseph, whom the porter incessantly invoked, as well as the humble beginnings of the Oratory. The articles also highlighted around 8,000 daily pilgrims on the site and 250 letters received every day.
In English-language newspapers, the focus was on narrating Brother André’s main work: the Saint Joseph’s Oratory. In The Review, emphasis was particularly placed on the beauty of the place, the importance and role of the sanctuary for the city, reported healings, and crutches hanging on the south wall of the Crypt Church.
Another English-language newspaper (unfortunately not identified) made an interesting connection between Brother André’s entry into the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870 and the decree of Blessed Pope Pius IX the same year, designating Saint Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church.
Although Brother André mainly captured the attention of the writers, Brother Marie-Antoine also received a few lines in La Patrie (January 31, 1924) and Le Devoir (February 1, 1924). Jean-Marie Guyot was born in 1846 in France; he entered the religious life, taught in Paris and Algeria, and finally in Canada, where he arrived in 1903.
From Public Event to Intimate Celebration
So, what do the newspapers say about this special day? The grand solemn Mass in the Crypt Church attracted an imposing crowd. Representatives from all communities of the Congregation of Holy Cross were present. Among the guests was also a close friend of Brother André: Raoul Gauthier, chief of the Montreal firefighters.
Music took center stage. A choir under the direction of Brother Séverin, choir director at Collège Notre-Dame, performed the Mass of the Angels accompanied by the Oratory’s organist, Brother Placide. The Mass was presided over by the provincial superior, Father Alfred Roy, c.s.c., and the occasion sermon was delivered by Father Édouard Laurin, c.s.c. Excerpts were extensively reproduced in the newspapers.
“So, fifty years ago, almost simultaneously but over a thousand leagues apart, two young men called from above […] and in complete freedom, made an offering to God of what they held most dear.” (Father Édouard Laurin, c.s.c., quoted by Le Devoir, February 4, 1924)
All newspapers also mentioned the banquet that followed the celebration. Unfortunately, the newspapers reported few details. Perhaps the banquet was, unlike the Mass, the intimate moment desired from the start. It is a pity because Le Devoir indicates that the jubilarians offered a few words at the end of the meal. However, Brother André’s words were not recorded.