Frère André

Saint André Bessette is, in my opinion, a very interesting Saint. He was born in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec. For those who may not know where this is, it is South-East of Montreal and very close to the American border. From his birth, no one would have guessed that he would live to the ripe old age of 91, as he was a very frail infant. Born August 9, 1845, with the name Alfred; he was the 8th child in a family of 12. Though this family size may seem large, four of his siblings unfortunately died in as infants. He would have therefor grown up beside 7 other siblings.

Though his father was a carpenter, the family stayed poor as very little employment was available. When the family moved in hopes of job prospects, Alfred’s father died in an accident with a falling tree. It is always a sad tale when a child loses a parent so young, he was only 9 years old. Yet, the trials of his life were far from over. After three years, his mother was in ill health and died of Tuberculosis. Alfred was an Orphan at age 12.

It was much later in his life that he had been recommended to join the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. It was likely this influence that the Rev. André Provençal had on Alfred’s life and vocation that led to his own taking on the name André. Unfortunately, Alfred was rejected at first. Why? Because that frail little infant, orphaned at 12, grew into a man suffering from ill health. This did not stop him though. He was later accepted as the Archbishop of Montreal intervened on his behalf.

You are likely reading this, wondering at how amazing a turn of fate his life had taken, entering the novitiate at 26 and taking his vows at 28. Yet, it was not so grandiose a celebration. He was given the responsibility of being the doorman. A post he happily executed for 40 years.

Br. André had a great devotion to St. Joseph. It is possible that he found comfort in the similarity between his own father, a carpenter, and Joseph, a fellow carpenter. Through this devotion, Br. André began to heal the sick and the afflicted. Or rather, he would call on St. Joseph to heal and intercede in his behalf. It is interesting to me that he himself was never healed. He suffered from intestinal problems,  and frail health in general, yet he never once asked St. Joseph to intercede for his own healing. I believe that he did what we are all called to do in our lives: join our suffering with the unity of the cross of Jesus Christ. Like many other saints before him, Br. André suffered selflessly as Jesus did upon the cross. He participated actively in, as St. Paul puts it, that which is lacking in Christ’s sacrifice.

To this day there are many who have found healing through the intercessory prayers of St. André Bessette. He is a source of humble inspiration, a man who accepted the humblest of tasks to dedicate his life to who was given a great Grace from God. He is an example to all of us suffering from any illness or pain on how the unity of our pain to Jesus can truly impact the lives of those we encounter.

You can pray to St. André for any healing need you may have, or pray to him to help you live with your illness and offer up your suffering. Christ loved us so much that he allows us to take part in the redemption of the world.

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