Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bl Andre Bessette

Along with the traditional Feast of the Epiphany today, it's the feast day of one of my favorite beati, Bl. Andre Bessette, the humble porter who saved the nickels he earned giving haircuts to schoolboys to build a wooden shack to honor his chosen patron, St. Joseph. That wooden shack is now St. Joseph's Oratory, which sits atop Mont-Royal in Montreal, Canada.

Bl. Andre was orphaned as a young boy - small, weakened by chronic illness, and uneducated, he had little in the way of worldly skills to recommend him. He was initially accepted by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, but once they determined he was too frail to do any substantial work, they attempted to expel him from the order. Fortunately, the local bishop intervened and Bl. Andre remained with the order, where he was assigned porter duty for their boys' school. As he put it, "They showed me the door and I remained there for 40 years."

Among his duties was lighting and extinguishing candles and lamps at the school and chapel. He began collecting the oil from the lamps burned at Mass and in the sanctuary in honor of St. Joseph, which he brought with him when he was called to visit and pray with the sick. He applied his "St. Joseph's Oil" to the afflicted and effected miraculous cures. It is still sold at the Oratory. His reputation for bringing comfort and peace of mind to the ill was widely reknowned, and much of it stemmed simply from his ability to listen, observe, and to discern the state of souls. As his fame grew and he visited people who'd called looking for a rub of oil and a quick miracle, Brother Andre would often tell them to go to Mass and to Confession first, then call him.

I've long been a fan of Bl. Andre's because, like Stes. Bernadette and Therese, he exemplifies the virtue of true humility, and his story demonstrates what incredible, powerful, transformative love God can show us using the lives of these simple, obscure people to do great things in the world.

From a simple wooden shack of a chapel built with loose change saved by Bl. Andre for years and years....we now have this:

A poor, illiterate orphan's devotion sees its fruition with two million visitors each year.

Beautiful story, and a wonderful place to visit if you ever have the chance.


a thorn in the pew said...

Thank you for that story.

Philangelus said...

Can you recommend a good biography of him?

Kit said...

I've never actually read a bio of him, but I am sure they exist. My great-grandma was French-Canadian (home parish was Ste. Anne de Beaupre) and growing up, we had an old prayer card and printed tract about him in in our pre-divorce home library, and I went to the Oratory in 1990 as a side trip while attending a Formula One race (My flame at the time was an Ayrton Senna sponsor, RIP). And of course he's in all of my Lives of the Saints and Modern Saints books.

I saw a movie about his life in my senior hs French class (en francais) back when you could watch stuff like that in public school, which may or may not be the one they show on EWTN -- I haven't seen it on EWTN, but in looking for a bio, I found it here: http://www.ewtnreligiouscatalogue.com/shop.axd/Search?keywords=andre

I also saw a neat looking book on Amazon - God's Doorkeepers, which features Bl. Andre, Ven. Solanus Casey, and St. Pio (Bl. Andre's ability to peer into souls has always made me think of him as a prequel to Padre Pio, so I may have to pick this one up!)

The trip to Montreal is one I plan to make again with the girls in the near future.

Philangelus said...

Thanks! Doorkeepers is now on my amazon wishlist, and in the absence of anything else, I ordered a used bio of him from a reseller for $.01. (and shipping.)

Philangelus said...

His biography is here! (Finally!) Thanks again!