Blessed André was born Alfred Bessette in the year 1845 in a small village near Montreal, Canada. As a boy, he worked in the local mills and farms. He was very religious and had great devotion to St. Joseph. Determined to serve God, he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870 and took the name André.
Unfortunately, André was uneducated and not very healthy. He was plagued with stomach problems that had made it difficult for him to hold jobs for very long. Even though the Holy Cross brothers were teachers, poor André didn’t even know how to read and write. He was very prayerful and devout, however, so when he was asked to leave the novitiate, he appealed to a visiting bishop who allowed him to stay. After his vows, he was sent to Notre Dame College in Montreal (a school for young boys) as a porter. His duties were to do such menial tasks as answer the door, wake up the boys, and deliver mail.
In 1904, brother André asked the archbishop of Montreal for permission to build a chapel to Saint Joseph on the mountain near the college. The archbishop replied that André could build whatever he had the money to build, but that no funds could be given for this project. The only money that André had was a few hundred dollars accumulated from a donation dish he kept by the statue of St. Joseph. He used the sum to build a small wooden shelter.
After it was built, André continued to collect donations and improve the building little by little. He eventually added heating, a paved road leading to the building, a shelter for pilgrims, and then another shelter for the caretaker of the shrine. And pilgrims came by the thousands to this small and simple shrine because of the miracles that occurred there.
Brother André counseled many individuals with both physical and emotional healing. He died in 1937, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on December 19, 2009.
Brother André never lost hope in spite of the many obstacles in his life. His devotion and faith were always strong. When he was 90 years old, he asked his co-workers to place a statue of St. Joseph in the basilica he had built even though it was unfinished. He was very ill and had to be carried up the hill to see the statue in the roofless building. He did not live to see his work completed, but it mattered little because André’s joy was in working toward the goal and in his day-by-day devotion to God.
Father, forgive us when we get so caught up in goals that we lose our focus. It is so easy to do so in this world. In the hustle and bustle of trying to do even good things, we many times forget the important things, like going to You in prayer. Help us to remember the example of Blessed André and take things one day at a time, always keep our hearts and minds centered on You, and not worry about the end result, but rather have faith that You will provide. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
Epiphany of Our Lord
Sts. Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior (1st Century), The Three Wise Men
St. Raphaela Mary (1925), Virgin, Religious, Foundress