When I was about 7 or 8 years old, an aunt of mine to whom I was especially close went with friends to eastern Canada, and she came back with holy cards, medals, and information about a very holy man called Brother Andre. I can remember looking at those mementoes. Brother Andre died just about that time—in January, 1937, to be exact. I don’t remember whether my aunt was there before or after he died, and whether she ever had the opportunity to see or speak with him, since she spoke French. In any case, Brother Andre was a very simple, gentle brother in the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and his one great devotion was to Saint Joseph. He dreamed all his life of doing what he could to see that a shrine to Saint Joseph should be built on the hill called Mont Real (the French words which we in English mispronounce as “Montreal.”) If you go to Montreal now, you can see the fulfillment of Brother Andre’s dream, for there, on the top of Mont Real, the highest point in Montreal, there rises a huge church which attracts thousands of pilgrims all year long, and which is now the site of the tomb of Brother Andre, who was canonized last year by Pope Benedict. So the simple little Brother Andre is now the glorious Saint Andre Bessette, whose feastday we celebrate today. He suffered from bad health all his life, and yet surprisingly lived to be 91 years old. His prayers were the occasion of many miracles of healing; when people would speak to him about his having healed the sick, he would always correct them. “I do not heal; Saint Joseph heals,” he would say. And of course, that is quite true. We human beings cannot perform supernatural actions, but many of the saints have been given the grace of praying for, and obtaining, supernatural favors.
If Saint Andre were here with us today, he would no doubt recommend that we pray to Saint Joseph. And the two principal intentions for which we invoke Saint Joseph are the well-being of the entire Church, of which he is the primary patron, and our own happy death and that of those we are especially concerned about. Saint Joseph, who is never mentioned in the gospels after Our Lord was twelve years old, is thought to have died in the presence of Our Blessed Mother, his wife, and Our Divine Lord, his foster-son. What a blessed company in which to die! It is for this reason that the Church has made Saint Joseph the patron of happy deaths. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.