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)