Br. Andre Bessette called himself St. Joseph's little dog. He was born in Saint-Gregoire d'Iberville Quebec, Canada, August 9, 1845, and raised in a devout French Catholic family. By the time Br. Andre was twelve, both of his parents had died, and he was sent to live and work with relatives. Br. Andre's father was a carpenter like St. Joseph and his mother had a great devotion to St. Joseph which she passed on to little Andre, who was a sickly child. Br. Andre “had already often thought of Saint Joseph watching over the Child Jesus and he had made up his mind to imitate this saintly Workman, for he also was to watch over the Infant God Whom he carried at all times in his soul by divine grace and Whom he received with such deep piety in Holy Communion” (Br. Andre: The Wonder Man of Mount Royal, H. P. Bergeron, CSC, 15).
Br. Andre faced many challenges, especially as he tried to become a Holy Cross Brother. He grew in holiness and received the great gifts of compassion for the sick and healing, through the intercession of St. Joseph. He wanted to build a Shrine to St. Joseph on Mt. Royal across from the college where he worked as a doorkeeper, in Montreal, Quebec. He began with poor health, little education and no money and even his own Brothers said it was impossible. Still, Br. Andre placed total faith in God and the assistance of St. Joseph. A medal of St. Joseph was buried in the ground, where Br. Andre wished to build the Shrine, and countless prayers were offered. Miracles happened. A small Church was built, then a larger one. When the walls stood and there was no money for a roof, Br. Andre placed a statue of St. Joseph in the middle and said that the Saint would provide his own shelter; with Br. Andre's help and hard work he did. St. Joseph's home kept growing!
Br. Andre led weekly Stations of the Cross and a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration in the small chapel. So great was Br. Andre's love for the Blessed Sacrament that he often spent his nights in prayer before Jesus. Br. Andre's bedroom, in which he cared for the sick and dying throughout the night, overlooked the chapel. Br. Andre cut out a window in his room so he could look at the tabernacle and pray to Him day and night.
It is often said that a dog is a man's best friend. Br. Andre, St. Joseph's little dog, certainly deserves the title of his best friend. Sometimes it was as if he was speaking with St. Joseph, said those who saw him in prayer. Br. Andre's advice to those wanting cures was simple: “Rub yourself with the blessed medal [of St. Joseph] and with St. Joseph's oil. Make a novena”(67). Br. Andre encouraged novenas of Holy Communions, the Sacrament of Confession and the Stations of the Cross.
Br. Andre died on January 6, 1937, on the Feast of the Epiphany. A million people traveled to Montreal in the cold and snow to pay their respects to Br. Andre. Above all, Br. Andre desired for people to grow close to God and be healed. He was willing to offer up any sacrifice for the conversion of one soul. Br. Andre cared deeply about the sick, poor and suffering of the world. Today, when visiting the St. Joseph's Oratory, it is amazing to see the thousands of crutches and braces left behind by those who were cured. People continue to pray, through the intercession of St. Joseph and Br. Andre, for their many needs. In the words of Br. Andre: “Seldom have I met someone who has come to the shrine and left without consolation, without feeling better about life.” “Place yourself in God's hands. He will not abandon you.” Yearly, over two million people visit St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, the largest shrine in the world to St. Joseph! Br. Andre is entombed there.
Br. Andre spent hours in Eucharistic Adoration.
“What would your wife say if you were a whole month without showing her any marks of affection? She would say that you do not love her. You would cause trouble in your home. Well, when you do not receive Communion God says to Himself that you do not love Him. And there is trouble in your soul.”
“If you ate only one meal a week would you survive? It is the same for your soul. Nourish it with the Blessed Sacrament.”
“Receive the Holy Communion often. Our Lord cannot refuse you anything when He is there in your heart. You will find strength and solace in this act” (St. Br. Andre Bessette).
“O Holy angels, make me see God on the altar as you see Him in heaven.”
“His love of the Holy Eucharist was impregnated with a love for the sufferings of the Master; the Holy Hour which he inaugurated at the Oratory [of St. Joseph] every Friday evening was followed by the Way of the Cross” (Brother Andre:The Wonder Man of Mount Royal, Henri-Paul Bergeron).
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