January 6, 2021 marks the 84th anniversary of the death of Saint Brother André (January 6, 1937).
In the days – if not hours – following Brother André’s death, a significant amount of letters, telegrams and cards of sympathy arrived at the monastery’s post office. A brief inventory of this correspondence is made in the wake of the opening of the trial for Brother André’s canonization in 1940, and lists more than 700 letters of sympathy.
Two years ago, while I was looking for the archives of the Cause’s Office, I came across a small brown suitcase with the inscription “Cause of Brother André”. I thought I had stumbled upon one of the suitcases used to transport documents to Rome. When I opened it, I was surprised to find an old slide projector instead! I thought, “What have I stumbled upon again? It was only some time later, while working on other archives of the Cause, that I was able to put the pieces of this puzzle back together.
The Roland-Gauthier Archives and Documentation Centre has 245 documents about Brother André. Of these, 119 are biographies, sometimes in 2 copies, written by about forty different authors (including translations).
The Archbishops of Montreal had a role to play throughout the steps leading up to the canonization of Saint Brother André. Some were prominent players while others were more discreet. Here is an outline of the history of their participation in the canonization.
On October 30, 2010, the canonization of Saint Brother André was celebrated with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. This is the second time in 30 years that the Stadium has hosted an event concerning Brother André: the first event took place on June 20, 1982 on the occasion of Brother André’s beatification. Archbishop Paul Grégoire, Archbishop of Montreal, gave the homily for the occasion.
A Significant Event that Marked My Life and that of the Congregation Of Holy Cross
On October 30, at the Olympic Stadium, there were many of us from the Holy Cross family, gathered with more than 40,000 people to give thanks to God for having given us this exceptional man, Brother André. He is the first member of our religious community and the first man born in the country to be declared a saint for the whole world.
As soon as Brother André died, many pious images were produced and distributed by the Oratory. They are usually wallet-sized images with a representation of Brother André on one side and a prayer text on the back. The inscriptions on the back of these images give them great interest.
I have been employed at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal for a little over five years. I was not at the Oratory at the time of Brother André’s canonization. I wasn’t even in Montreal. Although I remember where I was and what I was doing in October 2010, to tell the truth, I knew very little about the man Pope Benedict XVI had just canonized.
It’s been ten years already. Not by accident was Brother André canonized on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. His whole life was dedicated to relieving the sufferings of others, giving them hope and telling them they were beloved by God.
“I have always left the Oratory in God’s hands… he will do with it what he will.” The 10th anniversary of Brother André’s canonization reminds us that these words pronounced by this humble brother with the heart of an apostle are still full of relevance and promise.
Each year, several thousand schoolchildren come to visit the Oratory. They are always impressed by the character of Saint Brother André and by the immense house of prayer that he erected with his friends in honor of Saint Joseph.
Several years ago a diocesan priest from the South Shore gave this touching testimony on his website: “If I am free on a Sunday, I like to participate in one of the Sunday Masses at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. The liturgy is simple. The singing is beautiful. And above all, the gathering of the faithful speaks volumes. The testimony of people’s faith, modest but real, stimulates my faith and my hope… People of all nations, of all colors, of all ages, of all states of health and probably of diverse religions, come to pray to God during the Eucharist, and to Saint Joseph in the huge hall with votive lamps and to Brother André at his tomb. It is truly the universal Church that is present here and it is, visibly, the salvation wrought by Jesus for all that is manifested here.”