Blessed Andre Bessette: Miracle Man of Montreal
Blessed Andre Bessette was born on August 9, 1845, near Montreal, Canada as Alfred Bessette. At his birth he was so weak that his parents baptized him. The son of a woodcutter, her was the eighth of twelve children. His father died when he was crushed by a falling tree and his mother died of tuberculosis.
Alfred was adopted at age 12 by a farmer who insisted that he work to pay for his keep. After working as a farmhand, he worked at various trades: shoemaker, baker, blacksmith — all failures. He was a factory worker during the Civil War. At age 25, he applied to join the Congregation of the Holy Cross, but was initially refused due to his poor health. He later gained the support of Bishop Bourget, and was finally accepted.
Alfred entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870, taking the name of Brother Andre. He was given the humble job of doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, with additional duties as sacristan, laundry worker and messenger. Andre had a lifelong devotion to St. Joseph and spent much time in prayer. On his windowsill, facing Mount Royal, was a small statue of Saint Joseph, to whom Andre was especially devoted. “Some day,” he believed, “Saint Joseph will be honored on Mount Royal.”
Andre had a special ministry to the sick. He would rub the sick person with oil from a lamp in the college chapel, and many were healed. Word of his power spread, and when an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, Andre volunteered to help; no one died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. “I do not cure,” he always said. “Saint Joseph cures.” By his death, he was receiving 80,000 letters each year from the sick who sought his prayers and healing.
For many years the Holy Cross authorities had tried to buy land on Mount Royal. Brother Andre and others climbed the steep hill and planted medals of Saint Joseph on it, and soon after, the owners yielded. Andre collected money to build a small chapel and received visitors there, listening to their problems, praying, rubbing them with Saint Joseph’s oil, and curing many. The magnificent chapel, now a great basilica, St. Joseph’s Oratory, is still in use today.
Andre died at age 90 on January 6, 1937, of natural causes and was buried in the Oratory. He was beatified in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.
“People who suffer have something to offer to God. When they succeed in enduring their suffering, that is a daily miracle.”
Prayer for the canonization of Blessed Andre
Lord, you have chosen Blessed Brother Andre to spread devotion to St. Joseph and to minister to all those who are afflicted. Through his intercession, grant us the favor that we are now requesting. . .
We also pray that the Church may canonize him as soon as possible. Grant us the grace to imitate his piety and his charity so that, with him, we may share the reward promised to all those who care for their neighbor because of their love for you.Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.