Today marks seven weeks until the canonization of the first saint in the Congregation of Holy Cross, Brother André Bessette, on October 17 in Rome. To help us prepare for this amazing celebration for the Church and for Holy Cross – in addition to the web page devoted to his life – we will post each Sunday leading up to the canonization a reflection from a current Holy Cross religious explaining what this humble, but holy man means to them personally in their life and ministry. The first of our contributors is Fr. Steve Lacriox, C.S.C., the current director of the Old College Undergraduate Seminary Program. His family hails from French Canadian and had a devotion to the “Miracle Man of Montreal” long before he was named a saint. He explains how Brother André has deepened his faith in God.
As a Holy Cross religious, I’ve always been struck by the fact that our first saint is such an unlikely character. Judging by worldly terms, Brother André Bessette didn’t seem to have much to offer. He was poor, uneducated, and unskilled, and his health was so fragile that the Congregation wasn’t even sure what to do with him. When they finally allowed him to profess vows, they simply made him a doorkeeper.
Certainly no one could have expected what would happen over the next several decades: the miraculous healings; the crowds of people who came to see him; the little shrine to St. Joseph that eventually attracted millions of pilgrims. No one could have expected that this simple, unobtrusive man would become a saint.
The fact that he did tells me as much about God as it does about Brother André. It assures me that, just as Mary says in her Magnificat, God does indeed “lift up the lowly”. If God had chosen an educated, dynamic leader to do what Brother André did, we’d probably be less impressed. We might be tempted to think that he accomplished these things on his own. But André’s weakness shows off God’s strength. We can be sure that these works are God’s because we know that André never aspired to that kind of greatness on his own. He was simply willing to pray with sick people who showed up at his door, and God took it from there.
Brother André inspires us to live the kind of childlike faith that Jesus talks about in the Gospels. Human beings are constantly tempted to worldly greatness, the kind of greatness that depends on our own effort and ability. But Brother André’s life is a powerful reminder that true greatness doesn’t come from these things. In order to be great, we don’t have to build a legacy or amass a fortune. We don’t have to be the most talented, beautiful or successful. We simply have to love and serve God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. He’ll take care of the rest.