Brother André’s Prie-Dieu

During the celebrations of the inauguration of the Oratory’s Crypt Church, a hundred years ago, Brother André seems to have remained in the shadow of the event. The issue of the Annales de Saint Joseph published in February 1918 is entirely devoted to the blessing of the Crypt Church that took place on December 16, 1917. There we can read weighty speeches, among all these beautiful testimonies, there was no mention of Brother André. Yet, we can, without a doubt, sense his presence. Archbishop Bruchési was referring indirectly to Brother André when he recalled the origin of the sanctuary:  “a medal which naive confidence inserts into a tree trunk…” and a little later, describing the pilgrims who proliferated: “we speak of graces obtained,” and “here the sick are said to be cured…” He was really talking about Brother André but with the utmost discretion, so as not to offend the humility of the holy religious.

In the list of Fathers and Brothers who are present at the celebration, we do not even find Brother André’s name! In any case, honours and titles meant little to him. The action he preferred was always focused on others and prayer was the way to get there. I visualise Brother André praying humbly in the choir stall reserved for him behind the altar. The splendid stone Crypt Church became this new space where Brother André could pray joining his confreres in Holy Cross and the pilgrims of the Oratory. For nearly twenty years, it was there that he participated at Mass every morning before heading to his office to greet people. He is still there every Wednesday with the suffering people who come for the “Office of the Sick.” And when the priest passes among them to bless them with the consecrated host, we can imagine Brother André accompanying them discreetly through his prayer. He is also in the Crypt Church every Friday for the hour of prayer and adoration (a “Holy Hour” as we used to say) followed by The Way of the Cross, which he used to make with his close collaborators and often with a great number of pilgrims.

Le prie-Dieu de frère André - Illustration de Jacques Gagnier, publiée dans la revue L’Oratoire, juillet 1958.
Illustration by Jacques Gagnier, published in the L’Oratoire magazine, July 1958.

Today, this oak bench with its prie-dieu which was assigned to Brother André is an incitement for us to pray as he did. Brother André used to say, “When we pray, we talk to God the way we talk to a friend.” It was here, in this inconspicuous spot in the Crypt Church, that he spoke to God “the way he talked to a friend.” It was here at the foot of Saint Joseph that he left the confidences which he had received from all around.

You can find online the dossier that The Oratory magazine dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Crypt Church. Enjoy the reading!