The largest shrine to St. Joseph in the world is now the rare recipient of a top Vatican honor. Pope John Paul II conferred the Golden Rose to St. Joseph’s Oratory yesterday on the occasion of the official opening of its centennial celebrations and the consecration of its basilica.
Pope Urban II created the Golden Rose during his pontificate, which began in 1088. In these almost 1,000 years, only 180 golden roses have been conferred, seven of which were in the last century.
This is only the second Golden Rose Pope John Paul II has awarded. The first was given to Our Lady of Czestochowa in Poland, at the beginning of his 26-year pontificate, in 1978.
Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the apostolic nuncio to Canada, was on hand to present the gift, wrought of gold, to Montreal archbishop Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, who was the main celebrant at yesterday’s mass. About 35 bishops from across Canada and 2,200 people attended the event, which was broadcast live on national television.
The Golden Rose “communicates the deep sentiments of the Pope” for the oratory, sentiments of love, gratitude and sympathy, said Archbishop Ventura.
“The Golden Rose is an exceptional sign of honor because this is a place of grace and hope,” he said, describing the oratory as “a celebrated place of prayer” and “an inspiration to vocations.”
St. Joseph’s Oratory stands in good company. Among the churches to receive the Golden Rose in the last century are Our Lady of Lourdes in France, Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.
Many consider the oratory special since it has been the site of many miracles attributed to the prayers to St. Joseph of Blessed Br. André Bessette, CSC. The humble brother, who had served as a doorkeeper for his order’s renowned college, Collège Notre-Dame, founded the oratory in 1904. What was once a small wooden chapel for 12 on a hillside is now the largest church in Canada.
In his homily, the cardinal pointed out how God uses the meek and the humble, like Br. André, to do great things. “No one could have thought, no one could have predicted that Br. André could have been at the origin of such a big and marvelous work – work, which developed and bore fruit for 100 years and which, after 100 years, has still not lost its relevance,” the cardinal said.
“This is exceptional,” said Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Halifax, referring to the Golden Rose. “It a gift for all Catholics of Canada,” said the native Montrealer, whose grandmother had visited Br. André and received his counsel when she first arrived in Canada from Ireland as a widow and a mother of 10. “He gave her a sense of confidence and of hope.”
A number of events are planned for the oratory’s centennial year. For information, go to www.saint-joseph.org.