Bl. André Bessette, C.S.C.
Statue of Brother André outside St. Joseph's Oratory
Born August 9, 1845
Died January 6, 1937
Venerated in Catholic Church
Feast January 6

André Bessette, C.S.C., also called Blessed Brother Andre, (French: Frère André, born Alfred Bessette) (9 August 1845 – 6 January 1937) was a Holy Cross Brother and a significant figure of the Roman Catholic Church among French-Canadians, credited with thousands of reported miraculous healings.

Early life

Alfred Bessette was born in Saint-Grégoire d'Iberville, Quebec (then Canada East), a small town situated 40 kilometers east of Montreal. His was a working class family — his father, Isaac Bessette, was a carpenter and lumberman and his mother, Clothilde Foisy Bessette, saw to the education of her ten children (two others died in infancy). When Alfred was nine years old, his father Isaac was killed in a lumbering accident. His mother Clothilde died of tuberculosis just a few years later, and Alfred found himself orphaned at the age of twelve. He was sent to live with his mother's sister, Rosalie Nadeau, and her husband Timothée, who attempted to establish Alfred in various trades, but the boy's fragile health (which would afflict him throughout his life) made sustained manual labor difficult.

From his earliest days, Alfred exhibited an unusually intense spirituality. He would often spend his scant free time praying before a crucifix or evangelizing his friends, and his many self-imposed penances drew the admiring rebuke of his gentle aunt, who was concerned that the boy was endangering his already poor health.

When he was 20 years old, Alfred joined many Canadians who were emigrating to the United States to work in the mills of New England, then operating at full output to supply the needs of the Union army in the American Civil War. When the Canadian Confederation was formed in 1867, he returned to his native country.

Call to devotion

The Pastor of his parish, Fr. André Provençal, noticed the devotion and generosity of the young man. He decided to present Alfred to the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal, writing a note to the superior, "I'm sending you a saint." Although he was initially rejected by the order because of frail health, Archbishop Ignace Bourget of Montreal intervened on his behalf, and in 1872, Alfred was accepted, and entered the novitiate of the congregation, receiving the religious name of Brother André, by which he was known for the rest of his life. He made his final vows on 2 February 1874, at the age of 28.

André was given the task of porter at Notre Dame College in Côte-des-Neiges, Quebec. He fulfilled this function for some forty years while at the same time doing innumerable odd jobs for the community. At the end of his life, he would joke that when he came, he was shown the door, and stayed for forty years.

His great confidence in Saint Joseph inspired him to recommend this saint's devotion to all those who were afflicted in various ways. On his many visits to the sick in their homes, he would recommend them in prayer to St. Joseph, and would anoint them lightly with oil from the candles in the college chapel. People claimed that they had been cured through the prayers of the good Brother and Saint Joseph, and they were grateful their prayers had been heard. Brother André steadfastly refused to take any credit for these cures, and, although usually a gentle man, he was known to become enraged at those who suggested that he possessed any healing powers. Because he wanted St. Joseph to be honored, in 1904 Bessette began the campaign to erect an Oratory to honor the saint.

Brother André's reputation grew, and soon he was known as the miracle worker of Mount-Royal. He had to face the attacks and the criticism of numerous adversaries. He had the strong support, however, of the diocesan Church, and thousands of cures without apparent medical explanation made him the object of popular acclaim.

In 1924 construction of Saint Joseph's Oratory began on the side of the mountain, near Bessette's chapel.

Death and beatification

Bessette died in 1937, at the age of 91. A million people filed before his coffin.[1]

The remains of Bessette lie in the oratory he helped build. His body lies in a tomb built below the oratory's main chapel, [2] except for his heart, which is preserved in a reliquary in the oratory. The heart was stolen in March 1973, but recovered in December 1974. [3]

Brother André was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23 May 1982. The miracle cited in the beatification was the healing in 1958 of Giuseppe Carlo Audino, who suffered from cancer. In the dioceses of the United States, he is commemorated by an optional memorial on 6 January.

On 19 December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated a decree recognizing a second miracle at Blessed André's intercession.[4] The Church and the Oratory are declining requests for interviews from the press until the decree is announced officially in 2010.[5]

External links


  1. {{Cite web | last = Marie | first = Bro. André | title = Blessed Brother André of Saint Joseph | url= | date = 25 October 2004 | accessdate = 20 December 2009))
  2. "Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal - The Tomb of Brother André". Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
  3. "Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal - The Heart of Brother André". Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
  4. Branswell, Brenda (19 December 2009), "Pope Benedict XIV attributes miracle to Brother André", The Gazette (Montreal), 
  5. Cameron, Daphné (19 December 2009), "Le frère André bientôt proclamé saint?", La Presse (Montreal), 
Stages of Canonization in the Roman Catholic Church
  Servant of God   →   Venerable   →   Blessed   →   Saint  
</div>pt:Irmão André

ru:Бессетт, Андре

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