This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

January 6 -- Feast of Saint Andre Bessette

Brother Andre
Saint Andre Bessette began life as the eighth of twelve children in a woodcutter's family in Quebec Province.  His dad died in a work-related accident and his mom died of tuberculosis.  Adopted by an uncle, Andre worked hard to support himself as a farmhand, baker, cobbler, blacksmith, and factory worker.  He worked in factories in both Canada and the USA, but at age twenty-five he responded to a vocation by applying to join the Congregation of the Holy Cross (CSC -- Congregation Saint-Croix).  He was initially rejected because of his poor health (and probably also his illiteracy, I reckon), but his pastor and then Bishop Bourget intervened on his behalf.  In his letter of recommendation to the Congregation, Bessette's pastor said, "I am sending you a saint."  Tough to turn away a saint, especially when you're in the blessed business. 

Andre, honored by the CSC
Being illiterate, Brother Andre was assigned to the door of Notre Dame College.  In truth, the job of doorkeeper  seems to be a faster track to sainthood than being a parish priest, or perhaps even Pope.  There's a question I'd like the answer to: have more saints been popes or porters? 

Sick folks began to visit Brother Andre for prayer and comfort.  He sometimes rubbed them with oil from one of the chapel lamps.  He often solicited prayers on their behalf from Saint Joseph, with whom he felt an especially close bond.  As word of miraculous cures spread, folks began to swarm in to seek Andre's help.  Although he insisted, “I am nothing … only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph,” his prayers and comfort became so popular that his superiors acquired a trolley stop across the street to use as a reception center for him.  Doctors denounced him as a quack, but the faithful still solicited his help.  His superiors in the CHC, though suspicious of where such mystic faith could lead, had little choice but to support him in the face of such popularity.  

For a long time, Brother Andre desired that a oratory be dedicated to Saint Joseph on Mount Royale (Montreal). declares the following story as legend, but they're empiricists at heart.  Andre and some other brothers climbed Mount Royale and buried giuseppini (St. Joseph medallions) on the parcel of land they wished to acquire.  The owners sold soon after.  Whether there is a connection between that and the current practice of burying statuettes of St. Joseph on property you wish to sell may be uncertain, but I am willing to take the first part of the legend on faith.  

Centennial postage stamp of the Oratory
Crowds overwhelmed the small oratory that Brother Andre built.  It was enlarged after his death, and then enlarged again.  [Speaking of his death, more than a million mourners and admirers passed his coffin.]  The basilica dome of Saint Peter's Oratory, completed in 1967, is the third largest in the Christian world [the largest is in Cote d'Ivoire and the second largest is St. Peter's in Rome.]  More than two million pilgrims visit it each year, many of whom no doubt pay some homage to the reliquary containing Brother Andre's heart.  

Simple man + simple faith + simple vision = many things wondrous and good.  On this Feast of the Epiphany / Theophany, my prayer is that our modernity and urbanity do not impede our faith. 


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