1 Thes. 3:12-4:2
Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
At a time when the world and the church face divisiveness, we may sometimes wonder if the flame of God’s loving Spirit might be dying. When we sense our own spirits flagging, we can look to the simple life of a Canadian Brother for guidance. St. Andre´ Bessette kept his eyes on Jesus and allowed St. Joseph to father him. He opened his heart in love to all. It is a healing love that we need to sustain us today; it is a healing love that will strengthen us and keep us blameless in holiness – abounding in love for one another.
Born in Quebec Province, Canada, in 1845, and orphaned by the age of 12, Alfred Bessette found a father in St. Joseph. St. Joseph taught Alfred generosity of spirit in a quiet but powerful way. Alfred knew that his life might be uprooted at any time, but he also knew St. Joseph would guide him. Hadn’t St. Joseph faced tough and unexpected challenges in caring for the Blessed Mother and Jesus?
Taken in by one family and then by another, Alfred worked at various jobs. However, his health was so poor that he did not have the stamina to do heavy work, and he had no opportunity to attend school. As a young adult, he went to the United States for a brief stint in the Connecticut textile mills. It wasn’t long until he returned to Montreal, Canada, with failing health. There, he made his way doing simple jobs of various kinds. In his parish, he volunteered for any jobs he could do. The parish priest, Fr. Andre´, recognized the young man’s great generosity and devotion. He asked Alfred to consider a vocation to religious life.
Alfred felt called to religious life, but he thought his lack of education prevented it. His pastor sent him to the Holy Cross Fathers with a note stating that he was sending them a saint. Alfred was rejected due to poor health. Later, after the Bishop of Montreal intervened, he was accepted into the Holy Cross Novitiate. Alfred made his final vows in 1874 as a lay brother. Taking the name Andre after the parish priest who had directed him earlier, he served to answer the door, make guests comfortable, help in the laundry, and deliver messages. He did these simple duties with great love, encouraging all he met to get to know St. Joseph.
Brother Andre´ visited the sick in their homes, caring for anyone he met who was afflicted, putting them in the care of St. Joseph. When an epidemic broke out at the College where he worked, he asked to nurse the sick, and not one life was lost. People lined up in droves to be anointed by Brother Andre´ since many healing miracles were attributed to him. But Brother Andre´ insisted that healing came through St. Joseph’s intercession, and urged all he met to grow in love for the quiet, saintly father of Jesus.
Brother Andre´ saw to it that an Oratory in honor of St. Joseph was built in 1924. This minor basilica in Montreal still welcomes around two million pilgrims each year. Thousands of crutches from those allegedly healed line one wall. In 1937, when the holy brother died at the age of 91, a million people filed past his coffin. Pope St. John Paul II beatified him in 1982 and Pope Benedict the XVI declared him a saint in 2009. Yes, St. Andre´ simply lived a life of unselfish love, welcoming all who came his way. He quietly did what St. Joseph still does: he cared for God’s children.
St. Andre´ Bessette is today’s Ornament of Grace.
OBSERVING THE BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTS
- In what ways can you allow God to help increase your love for others?
- How can you, by trusting in the fatherly care of St. Joseph, find spiritual health?