Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
day: January 6
Sickness and weakness plagued André
from birth. He was the eighth of 12 children born to a French Canadian
couple near Montreal. Adopted at 12, when both parents had died, he
became a farmhand. Various trades followed: shoemaker, baker,
blacksmith, all failures. He was a factory worker in the United States
during the boom times of the Civil War.
At 25, he applied for entrance into
the Congregation of the Holy Cross. After a year’s novitiate, he was not
admitted because of his weak health. But with an extension and the
urging of Bishop Bourget, he was finally received. He was given the
humble job of doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, with
additional duties as sacristan, laundry worker and messenger.
In his little room near the door, he
spent much of the night on his knees. On his windowsill, facing Mount
Royal, was a small statue of St. Joseph, to whom he had been devoted
since childhood. When asked about it he said, “Some day, St. Joseph is
going to be honored in a very special way on Mount Royal!”
When he heard someone was ill, he
visited to bring cheer and to pray with the sick person. He would rub
the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the
college chapel. Word of healing powers began to spread.
When an epidemic broke out at a
nearby college, André volunteered to nurse. Not one person died. The
trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. “I do not cure,” he
said again and again. “St. Joseph cures.” In the end he needed four
secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year.
For many years the Holy Cross
authorities had tried to buy land on Mount Royal. Brother André and
others climbed the steep hill and planted medals of St. Joseph.
Suddenly, the owners yielded. André collected 200 dollars to build a
small chapel and began receiving visitors there, smiling through long
hours of listening, applying St. Joseph’s oil. Some were cured, some
not. The pile of crutches, canes and braces grew.
The chapel also grew. By 1931 there
were gleaming walls, but money ran out. “Put a statue of St. Joseph in
the middle. If he wants a roof over his head, he’ll get it.” The
magnificent Oratory on Mount Royal took 50 years to build. The sickly
boy who could not hold a job died at 92. He is buried at the Oratory and
was beatified in 1982.