St. André Bessette

Artist: 
Julie Lonneman

Artist's Narrative:
Orphaned at age 12, in chronically poor health and poorly educated, Alfred Bessette began to wander here and there in search of work. During the ensuing thirteen years, he made his living as a farm boy, tinsmith, blacksmith, baker, cobbler and coachman, often suffering exploitation at the hands of his employers. In 1870, Alfred presented himself as a candidate at the novitiate of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. Given the name Brother André, he began serving as porter and gardener at Notre Dame College, a post he held for 25 years.

Soon the sick and broken-hearted found their way to the humble lay brother's tiny gatehouse for comfort and prayers. Because of his special devotion to St. Joseph, he encouraged his visitors to pray to the saint and many experienced answers to their prayers. Brother André enlisted the help of friends to build a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph, using money he had earned by cutting students' hair. This was the humble beginning of the great Oratory of St. Joseph that today overlooks Montreal on Mount Royal. It remains a popular pilgrimage site where thousands come to pray for physical and spiritual healing.

"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?"
—Saint John Paul II

Canada, 1845-1937.

His feast day is January 6.

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