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.
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.