October 21, 2015

St. Br. André Bessette, C.S.C

André House takes its name after a recently canonized Holy Cross Brother, Saint André Bessette, C.S.C. Brother André was well known throughout Montreal as well as most of Canada for his healing of the sick, but also because of his warm hospitality to whomever came to his door. Born in 1845 to a family of 10, André was orphaned at the age of 12. With poverty and disease rampant, André spent most of his early life working to help support himself in numerous factories and mills in the United States and Canada. André’s pastor saw a great devotion to God and a willingness to serve in André, and recommended him to the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. His pastor sent him to the Congregation with a letter stating, “I am sending you a saint.”
By 1870, Brother André had professed vows and was a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Due to his lack of education (André couldn’t read or write) he was assigned the task of porter (doorkeeper) at the Holy Cross school in Montreal. He was a man of great faith who soon attracted a great following.
Often his hospitality entailed spending much of the day receiving and consoling the poor and sick, as well as visiting homes and hospitals. Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. The growing crowds coming to visit him prompted his superiors to relocate his visitations to a small trolley station across the street.

Healings were frequent, and visitors always found solace and grace in St. André Bessette’s readiness to listen to their concerns. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but retained a fundamentally joyful nature and good humor. Nevertheless, at times he was seen weeping along with his visitors as they recounted their sorrows.

He was becoming known as a miracle worker, but St. André insisted all the more, “I am nothing … only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”

Crowds at the trolley station became unmanageable, so a small chapel was built nearby. Construction began in 1904, and two expansions followed in the next several years. That lowly chapel eventually grew to become St. Joseph’s Oratory, one of the largest churches in this hemisphere dedicated to St. Joseph.

On January 6, 1937, over a million people gathered for the funeral services of Brother André Bessette, then known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal.”

The epitaph on his gravestone sums up his life:
Pauper. Servis et humilis.
A poor and humble servant.

In a homily honoring Brother André, Pope John Paul II said:
“A daily crowd of the sick, the afflicted, the poor of all kinds-those who were handicapped or wounded by life-came to him. They found in his presence a welcome ear, comfort and faith in God. Do not the poor of today have as much need of such love, of such hope, of such education in prayer?” May 23, 1982.

Prayer to St. Br. André Bessette, C.S.C.

Lord, our God,

Friend of the lowly,
you gave your servant, St. André Bessette,
a great devotion to St. Joseph and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted.
Through his intercession, help us to follow his example of prayer and love
and so come to share with him in your glory.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord.


St. André, pray for us.

Our Portrait of St. Br. André Bessette, C.S.C.

The above portrait of our patron saint St. Br. André Bessette, C.S.C. was done by Fr. Martin Lam Nguyen, C.S.C.

This portrait is completely composed of finger prints.

Fr. Martin describes his intentions and hopes for the portrait:

“I like to imply in my work some sense of human touch, human labor, human effort reaching out into a larger
mystery beyond ourself. I wanted to do the portrait to honor our mission at André House. . .  using a medium that
is personal, ordinary and simple. . . So, this work today is for you! For your staff, for those men and women you see each day.”

The inscription under the portrait reads:

“Since it is the most basic and direct way to draw, I used prints to portray this likeliness of Frere André Bessette,
C.S.C. just as the humble brother glorified God in the most basic and direct way — through prayer and compassion.
This drawing honors the men of Holy Cross and their friends who have devoted their lives to serve Christ by welcoming
and feeding our distressed brothers and sisters.”
Martin Lam Nguyen, C.S.C.
June 1995″

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