Saint Brother André Bessette
Brother André was born Alfred Bessette on August 9, 1845, in Quebec, Canada. By the age of twelve, André and his siblings were left orphans-their mother died of tuberculosis, and their father had died three years earlier in a lumbering accident. Though he was barely able to read or write, André was forced to leave school and learn a trade. For thirteen years he labored in various industries despite his own frail health.
In 1870, he entered the Congregation of Holy Cross and was assigned as the doorkeeper of the community’s high school in Montreal. There he welcomed the sick and suffering of the city and encouraged them to pray to Saint Joseph, to whom the Holy Cross Brothers were dedicated by their founder, The Venerable Basil Moreau, C.S.C. Brother André’s visitors often found that they had been healed of their illnesses and received other spiritual favors. Brother André became known as the “Miracle Man” of Montreal, but he always gave the credit to Saint Joseph.
So many people came to call on Brother André that he built a small chapel to Saint Joseph across the street from the school. Through André’s determination and prayer, and the generosity of his many friends, the great Oratory of Saint Joseph began to rise on Mount Royal. Today millions of visitors still come to the Oratory to pray to Saint Joseph and to Blessed Brother André, and to seek physical and spiritual healing.
Brother André died on January 6, 1937 at the age of 92. This simple man of prayer was so beloved, that more than a million people attended his funeral in a blinding snowstorm. His body lies in the beautiful basilica he built in honor of St. Joseph.
He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982. In his homily that day, The Holy Father said this of Brother André:
“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?”
He was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 17, 2010.