A saint who opened doors...

I'm acquainted with the story of Blessed Brother André (who will be canonized today) from my four years at Notre Dame (1978-1982) including the three years when I lived with the Holy Cross community at Moreau Seminary on campus at the University. I rejoice with the Holy Cross community as one of their own becomes the first saint with the letters "C.S.C." following his name.

May there be many more!

To learn more about this new saint, make your way over to the blog, On the Margins, for a fine series of articles by Ron Raab, C.S.C.  Ron's ministry with the poor affords him a genuine perspective on Brother André - very worth the read!

This from Notre Dame News:
In his homily for the beatification of John Henry Newman, a month before the scheduled canonization of Blessed Brother André Bessette, C.S.C., Pope Benedict XVI praised the scholarly Victorian Englishman for exemplifying how “our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a ‘definite service,’ committed uniquely to every single person.” The sanctity of Blessed Cardinal Newman, remembered not solely, but primarily, for the veritable library of elegant books, essays, poems, letters, and sermons he has left behind, provides an ironic counterpart to that of Blessed Brother André, an uneducated Quebecois who would have been incapable of reading almost anything Cardinal Newman wrote.

The “definite service” which Blessed Brother André was assigned, and which the Church, by canonizing him, insists is every bit as indispensable as Cardinal Newman’s scholarship, could not have been simpler: His service was to open the door.

Blessed Brother André is the first member of Notre Dame’s founding religious order, the Congregation of Holy Cross, to be proclaimed a saint...

To honor Blessed Brother André Bessette and his service to the sick and needy, Notre Dame students will take up a special collection during the Oct. 16 Notre Dame-Western Michigan football game. The collection will support ongoing efforts of the University and the Congregation to help rebuild Haiti following the devastating earthquake there in January. More than 30 participants also will join in a weekend of service, prayer and learning for students, alumni, faculty and friends of the University in Rome.

Born Alfred Bessette on Aug. 9, 1845, in Saint-Grégoire d’Iberville, Québec, Brother André was one of 12 children. By the time he was 12 years old, his father, a lumberman, had been killed in a work accident and his mother had died of tuberculosis. Physically diminutive, chronically ill, uneducated and clumsy with his hands, the young Bessette nevertheless worked as a farmhand, shoemaker, baker, and blacksmith in Québec for six years before leaving for New England, where he spent four years working in textile factories and farms in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

From his earliest childhood, he was quietly but conspicuously prayerful, an inclination which seemed only to intensify during his hardscrabble years as an itinerant laborer, and when he returned to Canada in 1867, he confessed an interest in formal religious life to his local parish priest, who sent him to a nearby community of Holy Cross brothers with a letter assuring its superior that “I am sending you a saint.”

The largely illiterate 25-year old novice was put to work as a porter, or doorman, at Montréal’s Collège of Notre Dame, an assignment in which he continued for the next 40 years.

In addition to welcoming visitors, he served as janitor, launderer, and sacristan, ran errands and provided the students with cheap haircuts. Throughout these years his reputation for humility and kindness grew, as did the numbers of visitors he received. Most of these were poor and sick people, to whom he offered not only his compassion and what material assistance he could provide, but also moral and spiritual advice. Many of his visitors attributed miraculous cures to him, but he would insist, sometimes with annoyance, that any such cures were attributable to the prayers of Saint Joseph.
(Read the complete article at Notre Dame News)

And be sure to visit On the Margins!
Image: Statue of Brother André on the grounds of St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, QC, Canada

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  1. I have a friend (in Boston!) who is very devoted to Andre and introduced me to him many years ago. It was a rich blessing when I visited Montreal in the summer of 2004 to go to the Oratory. From that time forward, my own devotion to Brother Andre increased.

    Another thing making me smile today is how small and beautiful the world is. My friend Sarah lived in Portland until recently and was very much a part of Fr. Ron Raab's parish community, which of course has the link to Andre. Yesterday I was reading a book for my grad school coursework and was delighted to come upon your name. (It is Searle's book, Called to Participate.)

    St. Andre and St. Mary MacKillop, pray for us!

  2. My daughter (a graduate of Stonehill College) is teaching at a Holy Cross school in Agartala India. Celebrations have been going on the campus for the canonization combined with the huge Hindu festival of Durga Puja. A few of the Holy Cross Fathers from Agartala made the trip to Rome.


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