Announcement of Brother André’s canonization causes elated reaction

2 19 2010 Priest The soon to be canonized Bl. André Bessette. | Archives of the Oratory Saint-Joseph.

The announcement of Bl. Brother André’s Oct. 17 canonization has caused a grateful reaction and much anticipation among Catholics and Canadians devoted to the humble porter who showed great devotion to St. Joseph.

Pope Benedict XVI announced Br. André’s pending canonization in the Consistory Hall of Vatican City on Friday. The Oratory of Mt. Royal in Montreal said that his audience included priests and brothers of the blessed’s order, the Congregation of Holy Cross. They were joined by members of the Oratory and members of the Archdiocese of Montreal.

Those gathered showed elation and greeted the announcement with “warm applause.”

Fr. Hugh Cleary, CSC, Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross, and Rector of St. Joseph’s oratory, Fr. Claude Group, CSC, were part of the delegation, as was Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See Anne Leahy.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal, discussed the announcement at a press conference at St. Joseph’s Oratory. He said the announcement was “the best thing that could have happened this year for the Church of Montreal.”

“I have always been impressed by this man, both a humble man and a visionary, a man of deep faith. An example of determination, still relevant today in 2010,” the cardinal said of the soon-to-be saint.

Fr. Jean-Pierre Aumont, Canadian Provincial Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, called the announcement a “wonderful gift” that will be received with “delight” by Br. André’s beneficiaries and supporters.

“For the religious of Holy Cross, it represents more than ever a source of inspiration, a model of faith and trust in God and in the human condition. He shows us how to envision great things and how to look toward the future!”

Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jérôme, speaking in his role as President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), said Friday that the bishops of Canada welcomed the Pope’s announcement.

“Brother André lived his life with great humility. Guided by a deep faith and devotion to Saint Joseph, he dedicated his life to praying, serving the poor, welcoming strangers, healing the sick and comforting the suffering,” the bishop commented. “To this day, his memory remains an important witness to all Canadians of faith and love.”

Bishop Morissette cited Pope Benedict’s comments that each saint is unique in his or her own way but all of them have been “impressed with the ‘seal’ of Jesus or the imprint of his love witnessed through the Cross.”

The bishop’s statement closed with the hope that Brother André’s canonization will be “a moment of rejoicing” throughout Canada and that his legacy can remind us of the achievements possible through faith and love.

Bishop Morrissette quoted Brother André’s own words: “It is with the smallest brushes that the artists paint the most beautiful pictures.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a Friday statement said he joins Catholics, Quebecers and all Canadians in welcoming the news of Brother André’s canonization.

“Brother André’s life shows us the power of faith and the importance of concern for the sick and others in need. In this solemn act, the Roman Catholic Church is honoring a Canadian who achieved greatness through humility, determination and service to others.

“Brother André’s devotion to St. Joseph, the patron saint of Canada, led to the building of the magnificent Oratory on Mount Royal. Today’s news heightens the inspiration we feel on seeing that religious landmark, a symbol and center of faith in Montreal and all of Canada.”

Blessed André was born Alfred Bessette to a poor Quebec family in 1845, a biography from St. Joseph’s Oratory says. His father died in a work accident when he was nine, and his mother died three years later. His large family was split up and the future Brother André, barely literate and physically weak from birth, moved from job to job for years.

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In 1870 he presented himself as a candidate for the novitiate of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. He was made porter at Notre-Dame College, where his daily tasks consisted of washing floors and windows, cleaning lamps, carrying firewood and working as a messenger.

He welcomed the sick and heartbroken, inviting them to pray to St. Joseph. His reputation grew as people reported that their prayers had been answered. He received visitors regularly for twenty-five years. Out of devotion to St. Joseph, he built a chapel with help from friends and money he earned from giving haircuts to students.

Larger versions of the chapel were constructed as more and more pilgrims came.

Brother André died in 1937. Over a million people attended his wake and burial.

A series of religious and cultural celebrations linked to his upcoming canonization will be announced soon for both Rome and Montreal, the Oratory of Mt. Royal reported.

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