Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Blessed Andre Bessette
Alfred Bessette was born not far from Montreal in Canada and he was the eighth of twelve children. When Alfred was nine, his father, a wood cutter, died in an accident at work. Three years later, Alfred's mother died of tuberculosis, leaving the children orphans. Each one of them was then placed in a different home.
Alfred went to live with his aunt and uncle. Because his family had been so poor he was often sick. Alfred had very little education and his uncle made sure that he worked for a living. So for the next thirteen years he tried learning different trades like farming, shoemaking and baking. But his health always failed him.
When Alfred was twenty-five, he joined the order of Holy Cross and chose the name Brother Andre. At first they refused him because his health was not good but then the Bishop favored Andre and he was accepted.
He spent the next forty years as a general maintenance man, Sacristan, laundry worker and messenger. The remaining years of his life were spent as the doorkeeper for the order's college, Notre Dame in Montreal.
Here, Brother Andre's healing power became known. When people came to ask him for a cure, he would tell them to first thank God for their suffering because it was so valuable. Then he would pray with them. Most of them were cured. Brother Andre always refused credit for the healing. He insisted it had been the person's faith and the power of St. Joseph and soon the trickle of sick people at his door became a flood.
Brother Andre had a great love for the Eucharist and for St. Joseph. On his windowsill, facing Mount Royal, was a small statue of Saint Joseph that Andre honored. When he was young, he dreamt he saw a big church, but he couldn't tell where it was. Gradually, he came to realize that God wanted a church in honor of St. Joseph. That church was to be built on top of Mount Royale in Montreal, Canada.
For many years the Church tried to buy land on Mount Royal then Brother Andre and his helpers climbed the steep hill and planted medals of Saint Joseph on it. Soon the owners agreed to sell the land to the Church.
Prayer and the sacrifices of Brother Andre and many other people made the dream come true. The magnificent church honoring St. Joseph was built and is a proof of Brother Andre's great faith. Pilgrims come to Mount Royale all year and from distant places. They want to honor St. Joseph and show their trust in his loving care, as Brother Andre did.
Brother Andre died peacefully on January 6, 1937. By that time he was receiving 80,000 letters each year from the sick who sought his prayers and healing. Nearly a million people climbed Mount Royale to St. Joseph's Oratory for his funeral. They came in spite of sleet and snow to say good-bye to their dear friend. He was proclaimed "blessed" on May 23, 1982, by Pope John Paul II. His feast day is January 6th.
Blessed Andre Bessette believed not in himself but in the power of God's love for him. In him we can see that God reveals his power shining through our human weakness.