The Great Work of Brother André

Vor vie­len Jah­ren habe ich die klei­ne Bro­schü­re über den hl. Bru­der Andre­as gele­sen. Des­sen Inhalt hat mich so begeis­tert und ange­regt, ein inni­ges Ver­hält­nis zum hl. Josef anzustreben.

Small Begin­nings

Bro­ther André was full of ten­der, child­li­ke love to St Joseph. Sin­ce his ear­liest child­hood he had cho­sen this Saint as his fos­ter father at the sug­ges­ti­on of the pious parish priest Pro­ven­çal. He was his inse­pa­ra­ble com­pa­n­ion and his con­fi­dant during his rest­less life as an orphan and in all ups and downs of his child­hood and youth. He invo­ked his help in all his tri­als, fears and needs and he always found help and com­fort in all men­tal and phy­si­cal suf­fe­rings. He enjoy­ed the purest plea­su­res of his life when being clo­se to his dear friend. 

He wis­hed others to share this hap­pi­ness as well. The­re­fo­re, he tried with grea­test fer­vour to instil the devo­ti­on to this power­ful Saint into his fel­low bro­thers, the stu­dents, visi­tors and the sick. His most ardent desi­re was to spread the devo­ti­on to the Pro­tec­tor of the Catho­lic Church in all pla­ces. For this rea­son he made a bold and fan­tastic plan to found an ora­to­ry in honour of St Joseph on Mount Roy­al. Mount Roy­al rises almost in the cent­re of the city of Mont­re­al – the city deri­ves its name from this moun­tain – facing the col­le­ge of the Fathers of the Con­gre­ga­ti­on of the Holy Cross. At that time it was a steep hill, cove­r­ed with a den­se forest. It was this wil­der­ness which this modest lay bro­ther wis­hed to turn into a basis for a magni­ficent shri­ne in honour of the holy nur­sing Father of JESUS. His fel­low bro­thers con­si­de­red this to be foo­lish­ness and delu­si­ons of grandeur.

It was in the year 1890. Bro­ther André was con­stant­ly pining for Mount Roy­al. He was often seen clim­bing the rocky path in the evening. “Bro­ther André, whe­re did you go yes­ter­day evening? I saw you clim­bing up the moun­tain,” a stu­dent asked him one day. – “I go up the­re to pray to St Joseph. It is quiet the­re.” – “What? You go the­re on your own? Are you not afraid?” – “Why should I be afraid? Would you like to come with me?” – “Yes, I would love to, Bro­ther André!” – “Then ask your mother’s per­mis­si­on and we will go the­re tonight after supper.” 

And real­ly, that night Bro­ther André and his litt­le com­pa­n­ion knelt at the foot of a tree in a clea­ring. “Why do we pray in front of this tree?” the boy mar­vel­led. – “I hid a medal of St Joseph the­re. He must help us to purcha­se this pie­ce of land.” – “Why do you want to have this moun­tain?” – “In order to offer a nice spot to St Joseph.” It was tou­ch­ing to see the bro­ther and the litt­le one pray in front of this tree with such fer­vent devo­ti­on, a tree which was to wit­ness such won­der­ful events. Sub­se­quent­ly they made many pil­grimages to this tree and every time Bro­ther André repeated to his litt­le com­pa­n­ion: “We will defi­ni­te­ly obtain this site. St Joseph needs a place.” 

He also asked his fel­low bro­thers to join his pray­ers. One day the mas­ter of the col­le­ge asked him: “Bro­ther André, could you tell me why the litt­le sta­tue of St Joseph on my clo­set is facing the moun­tain each time I tidy up my room?” Trus­tin­g­ly the bro­ther replied: “Becau­se St Joseph wants to be vene­ra­ted there.” 

After several attempts, Bro­ther André final­ly suc­cee­ded in win­ning over the fel­low bro­thers of his order to his plan. On 22 July 1896 they purcha­sed Mount Roy­al. Thus the medal of St Joseph had had the desi­red effect. So every day Bro­ther André clim­bed up Mount Roy­al with the per­mis­si­on of his supe­ri­ors accom­pa­nied by Bro­ther Albe­rich. Both were armed with an axe and full of enthu­si­asm cut many trees to clear the way for an ave­nue, which was to be cal­led “Bou­le­vard St Joseph”. Bro­ther André pla­ced a litt­le sta­tue of St Joseph in a niche of the rock. He sum­mo­ned the par­ents of the stu­dents to climb up the moun­tain to enjoy the magni­ficent view and to say a devout pray­er to St Joseph. This was the very modest begin­ning of a pil­grimage, which would not cea­se to attract ever more people.

At the begin­ning of the sum­mer of 1904, Bro­ther André was allo­wed to build a litt­le cha­pel half­way up the hill. On a Wed­nes­day, 19 Octo­ber 1904, the first Holy Sacri­fice of the Mass was cele­bra­ted in this litt­le woo­den cha­pel. The fathers saw the cha­pel as a solu­ti­on to be freed of the many unde­s­i­ra­ble visi­tors at the college. 

An ama­zing mira­cle mar­ked the begin­ning of the work. One day a sick man ent­e­red the col­le­ge. He was emacia­ted and suf­fe­red from incura­ble can­cer of the sto­mach. Loo­king at him Bro­ther André said: “Would you like to join me tomor­row morning and work with me on the hill?” – “What am I sup­po­sed to do the­re?” – “We must widen the road to the cha­pel. I need a strong man to help me.” – “Dear bro­ther, I would like to but I no lon­ger have the strength. I want to eat but I can­not swal­low.” – “All right, come and have bre­ak­fast with me tomor­row, and then we will cut trees.” The next morning the man came and put the generous bre­ak­fast, which Bro­ther André ser­ved him, to good use. Without the sligh­test dif­fi­cul­ty he was able to swal­low ever­ything. Then, this ‘wal­king corp­se’ star­ted to work and slaved away the who­le day long like a healt­hy woods­man. He no lon­ger felt any pain, the can­cer had com­ple­te­ly disap­peared. This man hel­ped Bro­ther André for many months. 

On 19 Novem­ber 1904, a sta­tue of St Joseph was dedi­ca­ted in the cha­pel of the col­le­ge and in solemn pro­ces­si­on trans­fer­red to the new shri­ne on the hill; a way of the cross was also instal­led in it. Howe­ver, this tiny cha­pel could not in any way hold the ever-incre­a­sing num­ber of peop­le. Con­se­quent­ly, two long rows of ben­ches were put befo­re the chapel.

Vicar gene­ral Mgr Reli­cort con­se­cra­ted the cha­pel in the pre­sence of the tea­chers and stu­dents of the col­le­ge and a lar­ge crowd. At the front of the cha­pel a second sta­tue of St Joseph was erec­ted. And so the Ora­to­ry of St Joseph had beco­me rea­li­ty. From now on the Pro­tec­tor of the Holy Church will not cea­se to pour out his acts of grace on all human needs at this sac­red place. 

Bro­ther André was 59 years old, a litt­le, frail man, who out­ward­ly was total­ly insi­gni­fi­cant. All his strug­gles and trou­bles of past years had now been for­got­ten. With heart­felt plea­su­re he enjoy­ed the tri­umph of his gre­at friend, the modest craft­s­man of Naza­reth. But it was only a very simp­le begin­ning. The pro­ject had not yet been appro­ved by the dio­ce­san aut­ho­ri­ties. Nor had they given per­mis­si­on to reser­ve the Most Bles­sed Sacra­ment in the new ora­to­ry. Bro­ther André was only allo­wed to exer­cise his works of cha­ri­ty with the sick, which thron­ged to Mount Roy­al. He wel­co­med them at the foot of the sta­tue of St Joseph.

Excerpt from “Bruder Andreas – Diener des hl. Josef”
published by Miriam Publishers, Jestetten (D)