When I was nearing the close of my RCIA instruction in 2015, Father Slowiak asked me if there was a particular Saint I thought I could “walk with” as I began this new life as a Catholic. I think he may have said “walk with” intentionally, still having protestant ears I might have misunderstood what it meant to journey with someone I never knew, and seemed unapproachably holy.
Five years earlier I had watched Brother Andre Bessette’s canonization on television and was struck by his story. I wasn’t looking for him, but it was compelling. Five years on, I told Father Slowiak Brother Andre was who I wanted to walk with.
St. Andre’s feast day falls on January 6th, also Epiphany, and so until February 6th, I try to walk a little closer to him. If you don’t know his story, I can summarize for you, something like this: French Canadian boy is born into poverty, suffers lifelong poor health, is orphaned at twelve, is illiterate, too ill for manual labor, is sent by a kind priest to the doorstep of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal, and is accepted as a novice, but with reluctance. What were they supposed to do with him? They made him Porter, floor scrubber, clothing mender, barber to the boys attending the school. And Doorkeeper.
And with that assignment, it seems The Lord wanted Andre in the special group some refer to as the Doorkeeper Saints, that many of you will understand from the life of Bl. Solanus Casey. In fact, there are many parallels in the lives of these new Saints. Yet, I’m left with so many questions.
What did the people leave behind, Andre, as you opened the door and listened to what what was troubling them? What did they see in you, Andre, after they crossed the threshold? How did you know, Andre, that St. Joseph wanted to help them? Did you know, Andre, that healings would begin to happen? How did you have the strength, Brother Andre, with your own illness, you could barely keep food down? And how did you, Andre, barely five feet tall, uneducated in all things except trust, manage to persuade people that a place of pilgrimage must be built-with the largest dome second only to St. Peter’s in Rome?
I’ve spent the better part of the last month pondering these things about my walking companion, And, I’ve purchased a passport. Someday, I hope to meet you, Andre, at that door in Montreal. Who wants to go? And I believe your message is the same, whether here or there, and it is simply, “Trust”.
As is my custom, I have done a sketch on this theme. It is of a fleur-de-lis, a motif found on the flag of Quebec, St. Andre’s homeland.
Yes, i too have learned that the saints are, and were ordinary folks like us. The saints, I have learned, put their trust and hope in God to help them daily meet the challenges and gifts of the day. I never heard or knew of St.Andre Bassette. The lives of the saints are worth our reading. Today with all the suffering in the whole world, we need to know that saints are living among us all. Thanks for sharing the life of St.Andre .
Thank you for your thoughts, and I completely agree !
Thank you Bruce, for helping us to remember this wonderful saint! It is often easy to look at the miracles, and not see the deep love and surrender of heart underneath. I suspect that it had something to do with his deep love for St Joseph, and Jesus. In his innocence and humility, he gave all to that love, which allowed him to be used in their work. I see the same hidden relationship happening in blessed Solanus. And remember the life of Saint Bernadette, who had a short period of visions and disappeared into a life of intense faith of God. They go quickly, because nothing stands in the way, and God uses them completely in his work. Many of us must forget God multiple times, before we can give our hearts away.
Thank you for your thoughts. I shared his story because I think he is not well known-but yes, like Bernadette he was open-in that special cooperation that is a mystery to most and confounds how we think God works. It’s a beautiful life story and I am happy I learned of him.
It is one of the treasures of the Catholic Church that we remember all these good people who have gone before us, that “cloud of witnesses,” as the Letter to the Hebrews says it. There are no stereotypes, but all sorts of unique persons who have lived their faithful lives, often despite great suffering. And so, we are called, not to be just like them, but to be ourselves, responding to God’s grace.
Thank you Father! Yes, it certainly is a treasure of the Church, these common people that are able to break through in a time and place most needed, and by their Yes, another dimension of the Lord comes. Andre no exception. Thanks for reading!
Thank you Bruce for sharing this reflection. Each day I read in the publication, Give Us This Day, a reflection on a holy person. I am edified by those who have gone before us as they live as disciples of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we forget that the ordinary things we do lead us to holiness. Also thank you for sharing your art.
Thank you Helen, so much. I hope to accompany Br. Andre the rest of my life. He walks fast -hard to keep up sometimes! I really appreciate your thoughts more than I can say.