Montreal - Why he was spared death and received two miracles as a child, Brother Jacques Berthiaume will probably never know until he meets his maker. But he’s certain of one thing: Brother André, the Quebec miracle worker, really is a saint.
“I am very proud because I can say I knew a real living saint — not some foreign saint that I’d only heard about,” said Berthiaume, 84, who, according to doctors, was going to die as a child.
Berthiaume was born in Saint-Césaire, a small town 60 km east of Montreal. It was also Brother André’s home town for a brief period before the local pastor, Fr. André Provençal, wrote a letter recommending him to the seminary.
MONTREAL - Two million people visit St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal every year but, since founder Brother André’s canonization was announced, shrine administrators say the numbers have visibly increased. Fr. Claude Grou, the Oratory’s rector, hopes this is a sign of renewal.
“I think it is just the beginning,” Grou said. “I think the celebration we will have in the month of October in Rome and in Montreal will generate more interest and I believe after that, people who have seen the celebration on television or come here, will feel the importance of coming back to this place as a place they will go pray, where they will grow closer to God, where their faith is strengthened.”
All of us at Salt + Light Television rejoice with the Church in Canada, the Church in Quebec and especially the archdiocese of Montreal over the upcoming canonization of Blessed Brother André.
I have had a personal devotion to Brother André ever since my first visit to the Oratory in 1976 as a high school student. Brother André taught me back then: “Ite ad Joseph” (Go to Joseph) and entrust to the Holy One of Nazareth your projects and dreams, that he may protect you and give success to the work of your hands. Over the past 34 years, I have been a regular visitor to the house that Brother André built for Joseph on Mount Royal. In May 1999, on the day I was named National Director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002, I took the train to Montreal and spent the night at the Oratory. I placed World Youth Day 2002 in the hands of Blessed Brother André, asking him to bless our humble efforts in allowing Christ to touch the hearts and minds of young people of Canada and the world.
Thousands of people during Brother André’s lifetime and more since his death in 1937 have claimed the humble brother’s prayers healed them, cured them, made them whole. There are racks of abandoned crutches, canes and wheelchairs on display in St. Joseph’s Oratory.
The problem for the postulator of Brother André’s cause was how to decide on just one miracle to present to medical and theological experts. When Andrea Ambrosi became postulator of Brother André’s cause in 2002, he had to find the right miracle to move the cause forward.
Canada’s next saint has always simply been known as Brother André, nothing more. But when Pope Benedict XVI declares him a saint in Rome Oct. 17, what title will he be given?
“We don’t know,” said Danielle Decelles, a spokesperson for St. Joseph’s Oratory. “For us in Montreal, he is St. Brother André.”
Rome has not revealed to the archdiocese of Montreal or St. Joseph’s Oratory what title Brother André will be given in the document proclaiming his sainthood. That will be revealed Oct. 17, said Decelles.
It is probable that Brother André would not approve of being made a saint. Or perhaps not even comprehend it.
Once on a tour of the exile Quebecois towns of New England, the already famous Brother André arrived in a place where the priest and the whole French-speaking community anxiously waited. He was already known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal.” The Connecticut pastor had organized a procession and the people greeted Brother André with a great feast. The whole community turned out to pray the rosary.
On October 17 Brother André, founder of Montreal's St. Joseph's Oratory, will become just the second Canadian-born saint when he is canonized at a Vatican ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XVI. To celebrate the event, The Catholic Register has produced its own homage to the life of this remarkable man.
In a series of articles and photos, we have examined the life and legacy of Brother Andre, a poor, illiterate, orphan who, after moving between several menial jobs, was accepted by the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal where he lived a remarkable life of faith, hope and charity until his death in 1937. He is credited with hundreds of miraculous healings and, through his determined efforts, became the driving force behind construction of the spectacular St. Joseph Oratory atop Mount Royal in Montreal.