SAINT ANDRÉ BESSETTE (1845-1937), religious
Today, the Church honors Saint André Bessette, a humble servant of God whose deep devotion to Saint Joseph and service to the Church brought hope and healing to many who were afflicted.
Born on August 9, 1845, in the town of St. Grégoire neat Montreal, Canada, André Bessette was the eighth of twelve children and orphaned at the age of twelve.
As a young boy, he was poor, uneducated and plagued by ill health. Before entering religious life, he tried his hand at many trades: apprentice shoemaker, farm-hand, baker, blacksmith and tinsmith. For a while, he even worked in the textile mills in the state of Connecticut.
In 1870, he entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross and took the name Brother André. However, he was initially refused admittance due to his poor health, but was supported by a local bishop and was ultimately accepted into the Order.
He spent most of each night in prayer, and on his window sill, facing Mount Royal, was a small statue of Saint Joseph, to whom Brother André was especially devoted. “Some day”, André believed, “Saint Joseph will be honored in a very special way on Mount Royal.”
While assigned as the porter, or doorkeeper, at the College of Notre Dame in Montreal, he heard someone was ill. He went to visit the sick person to bring cheer and to pray. He would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the college chapel. The person became healthy and word of the healing began to spread.
When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, Brother André volunteered to nurse those who were afflicted. Not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious and doctors called him a quack. Brother André responded again and again, “I do not cure. Saint Joseph cures.” In the end he needed four secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he would receive each year!
Throughout his more than sixty-five years in religious life, Brother André fostered a great devotion to Saint Joseph among those who were poor and afflicted with ailments. In 1904, he founded the Oratory of Saint Joseph on Mount Royal in Montreal, and was always known as a man of prayer and friend of the poor.
A sickly boy who could not hold a job in his youth, Brother André died on January 6, 1937, at the age of ninety-one years old, having spent his life building up the Body of Christ through cultivating a holy devotion to the foster-father of Jesus Christ, whose saintly intercessions before the Throne of the Divine Son of God brought consolation and spiritual, emotional and physical healings.
Pope St. John Paul II, in a homily he gave at the beatification ceremony in 1982 for Blessed André, stated that people who were stricken with illness or anguish would come to him from distant places “…to seek from him faith in God, trust in Saint Joseph’s intercession, a pathway to prayer and the Sacraments, a glimmer of hope and oftentimes a genuine relief of body and soul.”
(Please note that my own maternal grandmother received healing at Mount Royal through the intercession of Saint Joseph.)
Blessed André Bessette was canonized a saint on October 17, 2010, by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. His remains are interred in a tomb below the Oratory of Saint Joseph’s main chapel in Montreal, Canada.
We commemorate his feastday on January 6.
(From the Roman Breviary, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, and vatican.va/holy_father)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal for Saint André Bessette)
“Lord our God, Friend of the lowly, who gave Your servant, Saint André Bessette, a great devotion to Saint Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted, help us through his intercession to follow his example of prayer and love, and so come to share with him in Your Glory.
“Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”