Today Christians Celebrate the Feast of St. Andre Bessette

St Andre BessetteSt. Andre Bessette (1845-1937)

(Franciscan Media) St. Andre Bessette, expressed a Saint’s faith by a lifelong devotion to St. Joseph — Sickness and weakness dogged Andre from birth–he was the 8th of 12 children born to a French-Canadian couple near Montreal.

Andre adopted at 12 when both of his parents died, he became a farmhand and various trades followed: Shoemaker, Baker, Blacksmith–all failures. He would become a factory worker in the United States during the boom times of the Civil War.

At the age of 25 Andre applied for entrance into the ‘Congregation of the Holy Cross’ and after a year’s novitiate he wasn’t admitted because of his weak health but with an extension and urging of Bishop Bourget, he was finally received. Andre was given a humble job as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, with additional duties as Sacristan, laundry worker and messenger.

In Andre’s little room near the door, he would spend much of the night on his knees. On his windowsill facing Mt. Royal, was a small statute of St. Joseph to whom he had been devoted to since childhood. When asked about it, Andre said, “Some day, St. Joseph is going to be honored in a very special way on Mt. Royal.”

Whenever Andre heard that someone was ill, he would visit to bring cheer and to pray with the sick person–Andre would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lap burning in the college chapel, word of healing powers began to spread.

When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, Andre volunteered to nurse–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, Andre would say again and again, “I do not cure, St. Joseph cures.” In the end, Andre needed 4 secretaries to handle some 80,000 letters he received each year.

For many years, the Holy Cross authorities had tried to purchase the land on Mt. Royal–Brother Andre and others would climb the steep hill and planted medals of St. Joseph, suddenly the owners yielded and Brother Andre collected two hundred dollars to build a small chapel and he began receiving visitors there–smiling through long hours of listening, applying St. Joseph’s oil and praying, some were cured, some were not. The pile of crutches, canes and leg braces grew.

The Chapel that Brother Andre built also grew and by 1931 there were gleaming walls but money ran out.

“Put a statue of St. Joseph in the middle if he wants a roof over his head, he’ll get it.”

The magnificent Oratory on Mt. Royal took 50 years to build. Brother Andre the sickly boy that couldn’t hold a job died at the age of 92 and was buried at the Oratory and in 1982 was beatified.

At Brother Andre’s canonization in October, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI said, that St. Andre “lived the beatitude of the pure of heart.”

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