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.
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.