Category: Brother André
A Listening Ear
If you go to pray in front of the urn that contains Brother André’s heart, you have behind you one of three scenes representing episodes from his life: his doorkeeper’s quarters at Notre-Dame College, from which he often contemplated the new Oratory; the office where he welcomed so many pilgrims; the hospital room where he died.
Of the three, the one that strikes me the most is the second one, and here is why. We see the little brother standing there, his eyes bright and welcoming. He listens attentively to the person who speaks to him. He has received so many pilgrims for over thirty years!
In June 2022, I was invited to the city of South Bend, Indiana (USA), to attend a conference on religious archives. The event was held on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. This institution shares some commonalities with Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. First, it was founded by a Father of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Father Édouard Sorin (1814-1893). Like the Oratory, the university was placed under the protection of the Congregation of Holy Cross. But above all, Brother André is very present there.
That morning I was to preach on the Gospel of the Multiplication of the loaves. Now I didn’t feel like talking about the parallel between the multiplication of the loaves and the Eucharist yet. As I reread the Gospel, another clue emerged with the seven loaves.
We are in a desert place, far from any settlement. For three days a huge crowd has been following Jesus without eating. Jesus is moved by compassion. But how to feed all these people? The apostles have only seven loaves of bread. So Jesus asks them to bring them to him. The disciples comply. Jesus blesses the seven loaves and asks the apostles to distribute them. Not only do they feed the crowd, but they collect seven baskets of leftovers! Because they put their poverty at the service of Jesus, he was able to do wonders.
It is sometimes disconcerting for researchers who frequent the shrine archives to note that Brother André’s name is rarely mentioned in the official publications of the Oratory. He does appear here and there, but only on very rare occasions and no article is specifically dedicated to him.
Hat in hand, luggage in tow, Saint André Bessette is flying off to Rome this fall.
The Generalate of the Congregation of Holy Cross will welcome Brother André precious keepsakes from Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. A framed photograph of Brother André with an authentic signature, together with one of his hats, will represent the Oratory’s founder at the exhibition of the Congregation’s holy men.
They will include: Blessed Basile-Antoine Moreau (founder), Venerable Father Patrick Peyton, as well as Most Rev. Theotonius Amal Ganguly, Most. Rev. Vincent McCauley and Brother Flavien Laplante, all of whom have become Servants of God after the Vatican acknowledged their causes.
We seem to be on the way out of this long period marked by the pandemic, even if the path remains uncertain and the fear of new waves still present. We have all been affected by this crisis and we understand the importance of healing the wounds caused by these difficult times.
People who suffered from this disease needed medical attention and a shorter or longer healing time. But, all of us need to heal from the isolation, the estrangement, the loss of the landmarks that give direction to our life. We need to experience these moments of brotherhood again: of celebration of life or of support in the ordeal of the death of relatives or friends.
“Saint Brother André, we celebrate your presence among us.” This first sentence of the prayer that is offered “to obtain a special favor” through the intercession of Saint Brother André will resonate in a very special way during the month of August which is dedicated to him. More than an occasion to mark the birthday of the founder of the Oratory, born Alfred Bessette on August 9, 1845, this annual event is an opportunity to celebrate the Friend, the Brother, the Saint who accompanies us today.
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 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.
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