st. brother andré bessette and st. joseph’s oratory

Saint Brother André Bessette (image found at

The patron saint of Canada is St. Joseph. One of St. Joseph´s most ardent supporters and promoters was St. Brother André Bessette (1845-1947). St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montréal is Brother André’s testament to the prayerful intercessions of the beloved spouse of Mary, and earthly father of Jesus.

Brother André is one of those saints who tugs at your heart strings. A simple man, with little education and weak health, he was first denied entrance to the novitiate in the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montréal. He was finally accepted, but given the lowly job of porter at Notre-Dame College. In his own words, ‘’When I entered the community, my superiors showed me the door, and I remained there for 40 years without leaving.’’

In the ordinary task of welcoming people, he quickly became known for his holiness and prayer. When he met women and men in need of healing, he encouraged them to pray to St. Joseph. Soon, many healings began to take place and his fame spread. He remained humble, always sure to credit the healings to God through the intercession of St. Joseph.

Soon, a small chapel was built for all those who came. The chapel was replaced by a crypt church. Eventually the large Oratory was built which now stands gloriously on the hill overlooking Montréal.

Pilgrims climb the stairs on their knees, pausing to pray on each.

As with many holy sites, visitors range from sight-seeing tourists to devoted pilgrims. I love visiting these holy places. While I may not partake of all the devotional practises and acts, watching those who do inspires me. I prefer to sit quietly, or walk slowly, and soak in the spirit of a place. I think of all those before us who have walked the same grounds; of the many prayers that have been lifted.  And, in the presence, I find prayer.

Crucifix in the crypt-church. The feet of the statue have been worn thin by the hands of prayerful pilgrims; similar to the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Some of the many crutches left behind by pilgrims; a testament to healings and miracles.
Joseph, a just man, holy spouse of the Virgin Mary, guardian of the Son of God

pondering inclusive language

Canadians joke about keeping up with political correctness. The accepted name of a group often changes several times before an accurate yet respectful one is agreed upon.

For example, the term ‘mentally retarded’ is now considered politically incorrect for it is a label that automatically identifies a person as less than, slower than, inferior to the ‘norm’. It was initially replaced with ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘disabled’, but this still focused on what a person could not do. Now, the preferred term is ‘mentally challenged’, for it doesn’t erase or negate the specific challenges faced by a person. In fact, it invites us to respect the difficulties of these challenges while working together to overcome them.

Words ARE important, for they reflect deeper beliefs and understandings.

Inclusive language is becoming the norm in all academic writings and in journalism. In recent decades, it has slowly made its way into our prayer and worship. We use the more inclusive New Revised Standard Bible for our Lectionary. Our ears have become attuned to a reasoned and rational inclusivity in the reading of God’s Word, and in the singing of our hymns.

I wrote a blog post for NCR highlighting a commentary written by Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a doctor from Mumbai, for The Tablet. She gives us a window into the Church in India where inclusive language was taken very seriously by her bishops, yet is glaringly missing in the New Roman Missal. Her article is titled New missal makes women invisible.

Louise McEwan has written a thoughtful piece on inclusive language called Speaking about God on her blog, Faith Coloured Glasses.

As a writer, I fret, fuss, and worry over words; knowing that the perfect word or phrase can bring clarity and meaning to a thought. I also know that the wrong word or phrase can be a source of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

Language IS important. Politically correct language promotes respect amid our differences. Inclusive language insists that we expand the male-centered world view of the past to embrace both women and men in the fullness of their humanity.

come, holy spirit!

Charles Daudelin’s altarpiece, Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Coeur, Montréal

Recently, we were chatting with friends and the topic of the Holy Spirit came up. What exactly IS the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do? How do we know when the Holy Spirit is present? Hubby presented his own theological thesis, based on much deep thinking and pondering as a child. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like Dad, Son, and Uncle!

For me, the Holy Spirit is best expressed through her gifts, described by the prophet, Isaiah,

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….

(Isaiah 11:2)

The Holy Spirit is our divine inspiration (in-“in” + spirare “to breathe”), our creative force, the wisdom that is deeper than our own knowledge. The Holy Spirit is at work when we see clarity in the midst of muddiness. When we can dig into the dark recesses of our brain and pull out a wee nugget that brings understanding to us or another. When we have the courage to speak, and have the wisdom to stay silent.

Joanne McCracken, a dear friend and member of the Our Lady of the Round Table prayer community, shared a wonderful reflection with us this week. Here are her words of wisdom….

Back in the dark ages of my youth in Catholic school, the Holy Spirit was known as the Holy Ghost and came, it seemed, not in the shadows of some dark and stormy night but only when one was confirmed, in some invisible tongues of fire. Then he/she /it returned to the proverbial closet not to be mentioned except once a year, fifty days after Easter. On this annual visit he/she /it was mostly associated with speaking in multiple languages (all at once) further confusing in my mind. Who was this creature? Then, about 15 years ago I read this wonderful article in US Catholic entitled; God is More Than Two Men and Bird! Once I stopped laughing and read the article it all became so much clearer.

Holy One who is a Spirit;
who like a spirit is illusive yet ever present,
who rushes like the wind where you will,
who inspires hope
gives courage for the struggle
brings wisdom in times of doubt
grants patience with God’s time,
opens minds and hearts,
bestows strength on flagging souls,
blesses us with humility
and carries us on a stream of ever flowing graces,
who is with us today, tomorrow and always.
We bless you and praise you
for we need you.


As we celebrate Pentecost this Sunday, may we join our prayers that God’s Holy Spirit might indeed blow freely through all minds and hearts.

And thank you, Joanne!

What image do you have of the Holy Spirit? How do you experience the Holy Spirit in your life?