Each year, several thousand schoolchildren come to visit the Oratory. They are always impressed by the character of Saint Brother André and by the immense house of prayer that he erected with his friends in honor of Saint Joseph.
Several years ago a diocesan priest from the South Shore gave this touching testimony on his website: “If I am free on a Sunday, I like to participate in one of the Sunday Masses at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. The liturgy is simple. The singing is beautiful. And above all, the gathering of the faithful speaks volumes. The testimony of people’s faith, modest but real, stimulates my faith and my hope… People of all nations, of all colors, of all ages, of all states of health and probably of diverse religions, come to pray to God during the Eucharist, and to Saint Joseph in the huge hall with votive lamps and to Brother André at his tomb. It is truly the universal Church that is present here and it is, visibly, the salvation wrought by Jesus for all that is manifested here.”
When Brother André entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870, the community had already been established in Montréal for 23 years. Its founder, Father Basil Moreau, CSC, had a great devotion to Saint Joseph. Frequently, he urged his spiritual sons and daughters to turn to Saint Joseph to honor him and to love him. He also suggested to them to spread the devotion to the people with whom they were working.
Whew! The crisis caused by the new Corona virus has not yet completely disappeared, but we can certainly breathe a sigh of relief. A sigh of relief, we must admit, after months of restrictions and misery. A period that seemed to last forever.
One day in 1998, I received a letter from Alicia, a Friend of Brother Andre. Alicia lived in Aguascalientes, a village in Mexico. “From this village so far from Montréal, I give thanks from the bottom of my heart to our Lord for having heard my prayer through the intercession of Brother André and Saint Joseph.” “I bless the day that I was given to read the biography of Brother André. I found so much faith and trust in this ‘SAINT’ (Tuve mucha fe y confianza en este ‘SANTO’) and also in Saint Joseph. With them, a favor is quickly obtained.”
Brother André had, like many people still today, his share of misery and misfortune. Orphaned by father and mother at the age of 12, sickly and uneducated, he had to work hard to earn his living and make his way. But he wasn’t destitute for all that.
One day I was visiting an old friend of mine. Long before I met her – when she was a mother of eight children and pregnant with a ninth – she lost her husband in a car accident. She was distraught and threw herself at the foot of her crucifix, begging, “Lord, don’t let me down! “At over 85 years of age, Alice was testifying to me that the Lord had never abandoned her. She told me, “You know, even though I live alone in my house, I am not afraid. In fact, I am never alone. The Lord is there, I feel Him very present at my side and with Him I am never worried about what may happen.” Her heart was full of hope and serenity about the future.
One day, Jesus led the apostles up a high mountain and he was transfigured in their presence. A voice was heard, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” The apostles felt within them such strength that they eagerly descended the mountain, ready to follow Jesus, putting their trust in him in their everyday life. They had understood the import of “Listen to the Father’s beloved Son.”
The month of May makes me recall a beautiful memory I have from my childhood — a hymn: Tis the month of Mary, the loveliest month; to the Dearest of Virgins let us sing a new song. In many homes, a statue, a picture, a rosary evokes her presence. Let us call upon her motherly protection, given the human drama we are presently experiencing.
Mary in the midst of our sorrow. Mary in the midst of our current preoccupations. A discreet presence, yet how reassuring and beneficial. Just as on the road leading to Calvary, the presence and the gaze of Mary gives us the stamina not to flail about despairingly in the face of the terrors of COVID 19. Mary’s gaze illumines and transforms every Way of the Cross into a Way of Hope, Resurrection, and Life.
“’Tis the month of our Mo-ther; the bless-ed and beau-ti-ful days.” When I was a child I often sang this well-known hymn with my family and neighbors on Collines Lane in the little village of Brébeuf where I was born.
Every evening during the month of May, we gathered around the Cross by the roadside with the neighbors to pray to Mary.
We recited the rosary, sang hymns, made prayer intentions, and had a good time together.