Pope ap­proves saint­hood for Montreal’s Brother An­dre

Cape Breton Post - - NATIONAL -

VAT­I­CAN CITY ( CP) — A small, hum­ble Ro­man Catholic brother who built a mon­u­ment that still tow­ers over Montreal will be­come mod­ern-day Canada’s first saint.

Pope Bene­dict has ap­proved saint­hood for Montreal’s Brother An­dre, the founder of St. Joseph’s Ora­tory who was cred­ited with mir­a­cle heal­ings be­fore his death in 1937.

The Pope made the an­nounce­ment Fri­day dur­ing a cer­e­mony at the Vat­i­can and set the for­mal can­on­iza­tion for Oct. 17 in Rome.

The an­nounce­ment trig­gered a cel­e­bra­tory state­ment from Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper.

Brother An­dre fol­lows in the foot­steps of Mar­guerite d’You­ville, who was born in 1701 and was the first saint born on the Cana­dian ter­ri­tory, al­most two cen­turies be­fore Con­fed­er­a­tion.

One re­li­gious leader hap­pily com­pared Fri­day’s mile­stone to an­other re­cent Cana­dian first.

“ We are proud,” said JeanClaude Car­di­nal Tur­cotte.

“ We won a gold medal at the Olympics. This is also a gold medal.”

The car­di­nal com­pared each step in An­dre’s path to saint­hood to an Olympic medal. It was like a bronze when he was de­clared ven­er­a­ble by the church in 1978, Tur­cotte said, and like a sil­ver when he was be­at­i­fied in 1982.

And on Fri­day: “Fi­nally, a gold medal,” Tur­cotte said.

He made the re­marks at St. Joseph’s Ora­tory, a grand church built into the moun­tain slope over­look­ing down­town Montreal.

It was there in the early 20th cen­tury that a young Holy Cross brother built what was, at the time, a sim­ple lit­tle shrine to hon­our the fa­ther of Je­sus Christ.

Since then Brother An­dre, born Al­fred Bessette on Aug. 9, 1845 in St-Gregoire-d’Iberville and or­phaned at age 12, has been cred­ited with thou­sands of mir­a­cle heal­ings.

Last De­cem­ber, the Pope at­trib­uted to him a sec­ond mir­a­cle heal­ing de­scribed as sci­en­tif­i­cally in­ex­pli­ca­ble, a nec­es­sary step be­fore saint­hood.

A mem­ber of the Con­gre­ga­tion of the Holy Cross, Brother An­dre died in Montreal in 1937 at the age of 91.

In 1904, Brother An­dre founded St. Joseph’s Ora­tory, where he lived and was ul­ti­mately laid to rest. His fu­neral drew an enor­mous crowd of mourn­ers — es­ti­mated by some at nearly one mil­lion.

“He was not a big per­son­al­ity. He didn’t have an ego. He was a hum­ble man,” Tur­cotte said.

“But he had enough faith to move a moun­tain.”

At the time of his death, the Arch­bishop of Montreal, Ge­orge Gau­thier, sug­gested re­viv­ing a lit­tle known custom of the Mid­dle Ages.

In me­dieval France and Italy, when peo­ple of note passed away their hearts were of­ten re­moved from their bodies be­fore burial and pre­served as a to­ken of ad­mi­ra­tion or recog­ni­tion.

It was de­cided to pre­serve Brother An­dre’s heart in a reli­quary at the Ora­tory.

Dur­ing the night of March 15, 1973, some­one re­moved the reli­quary con­tain­ing the heart of Brother An­dre from its shrine.

Even­tu­ally, it was dis­cov­ered in the base­ment of a home in South Montreal on De­cem­ber 21st, 1974, based on a tip re­ceived by the po­lice.

It was put back on dis­play with the ad­di­tion of a se­cu­rity sys­tem, so that it could con­tinue to serve as an ob­ject of con­tem­pla­tion for pil­grims.

The Cana­dian Press

A por­trait of Brother An­dré, the found­ing cleric of St. Joseph’s Ora­tory in Montreal, is shown as it hangs on its walls in Montreal, Fri­day.

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