Saint Joseph at the cradle of Canadian history

It is recounted that during his expedition to the Hurons in 1615, Samuel de Champlain was accompanied by the Franciscan Recollet, Father Joseph Le Caron, who celebrated the first mass in Huron country on August 12, 1615 and named this first mission, at Quienonascaran, after Saint Joseph. In 1624 (around July 16 through August 15), Father Le Caron entrusted this new colony to the care of Saint Joseph as he wrote in his memoirs: “Sixteen hundred and twenty-four, we made a great solemnity…, by a vow we made to Saint Joseph whom we chose as the patron saint of the country and protector of this nascent Church.” (Annales de Saint Joseph, 13ème Année, Janvier 2024, p. 11).

When the religious Joseph Le Caron placed the new colony under the Patronage of Saint Joseph, in accordance with his own spirituality, he undoubtedly expected Saint Joseph to provide protection, help, intercession, accompaniment, support, companionship and inspiration for the success of the settlers in New France, for evangelization and for peaceful and harmonious coexistence with the natives.

Henceforth, Saint Joseph became a spiritual Father for the establishment of the colony. Not surprisingly, the surname Joseph was given to many inhabitants of the new France, including the natives who embraced the Catholic religion.

The Jesuit missionaries officially recognised the choice of Saint Joseph as patron and protector of the new colony in 1637.

Hence, it is a historical fact that Saint Joseph was at the cradle of New France.

Even today in Quebec and across Canada, many municipalities, towns, parishes, boulevards, avenues, streets, public institutions, parks, monuments, lakes, streams, rivers, and so forth, are named after Saint Joseph. Many people bear the name Joseph or Josephine.

Saint Brother André’s devotion to Saint Joseph follows from this tradition of his ancestors, with the particularity that he was chosen by Divine Providence to be an exceptional apostle of Saint Joseph, with the foundation of this oratory which, “by the graces and favors that heaven dispenses there, promises to become the Lourdes of Canada”, to cite Father Lépicier and Mgr Bruchesi (Étienne Catta, Le frère André (1845-1937) ; L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, ed. Fidès, p. 305; p. 333).
Justifiably, the theme of the 103rd novena to Saint Joseph at Saint Joseph’s Oratory on the occasion of the 4th centenary of this patronage is fittingly: St. Joseph, companion of our history.

I cannot think of a better and suitable title, for Saint Joseph was undeniably at the cradle of Canadian history. Therefore, let us wholeheartedly congratulate Father Claude Grou who, with inspiration from Saint Joseph and his great friend Saint Brother André, coined this title.

Needless to say, a companion is someone who shares another person’s occupations, concerns, adventures and fate. A companion is also someone who shares another person’s life. Finally, a companion accompanies another person, stands by another person and offers help, support, comfort or consolation.
This is who Saint Joseph was for his wife Mary and his son Jesus. This is who Saint Joseph was for Joseph Le Caron and his contemporaries. That is who he was for Saint Brother André. To this day, Saint Joseph remains the companion of all the people of Canada.

We are confident that Saint Joseph always keeps company with anyone living on Canadian soil, not upon their request, but simply because that embodies his mission since the birth of the colony. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal symbolizes this, and Brother André perpetually invites believers of all religions, curious visitors and tourists to “go to Saint Joseph”.

Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal embodies this spiritual and cultural reality.

Saint Brother André often said: “Pray to Saint Joseph and he will always be your father and your guide”. (Frère André disait souvent…, ed. Fidès, p. 105).

Whoever you are, whatever your personal or family history, believer or non-believer, let us dare to go to Saint Joseph for help, support, inspiration and protection.
May we keep alive the fond memories of the birth of our country, entrusting ourselves anew to the protection, support and solicitude of Saint Joseph, companion of our history.

“Good Saint Joseph, Companion of our history, walk with us, help us to live better in peace and harmony. Inspire us in the ways of love of God and neighbor in everyday life.” (Excerpt from the prayer of the Novena 2024, Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal).

Father Jean-Baptiste Vérité K. KPODZO,
Member of the Pastoral Team at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal