Saint André of Mount Royal, Timely Canonization, Call to Conversion
Canadian mystic was an evangelist, both in his native French Canada, and in the northeastern parts of these United States.
On October 17 last, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI canonized the very popular Brother André Bessette. The joy in Rome, Montreal, and in all of the houses of the Holy Cross Congregation was intense. All those longing for the conversion of America should share that joy, for this Canadian mystic was an evangelist, both in his native French Canada, and in the northeastern parts of these United States.
Saint André of Mount Royal, who the whole world calls 'Brother Andre'
The new saint is the only canonized member of that venerable Congregation founded by Blessed Canon Basil Antoine Marie Moreau.
All those longing for the conversion of America should share that joy, for this Canadian mystic was an evangelist, both in his native French Canada, and in the northeastern parts of these United States, where he lived for a time early on, and would later return on fund-raising expeditions when the Oratory of St. Joseph was being built.
There is also a certain timeliness to the canonization. In honor of the old eight-day observance of the Epiphany (the day he died, and hence, his feast day), I will offer a perfect octave of reasons for this claim to timeliness.
1. Miracles. Like Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Frère André is a modern miracle worker, who shows a cynical, and empiricist age that the true religion still manifests itself by the wondrous divine interventions we call miracles. Not that any wonder-working saint's essential sanctity consists in the miraculous, but to read the life of "Saint Joseph's little dog" (as he styled himself) is to read a litany of miraculous deeds. As Moses showed that the God of Israel was the true and living God, Frère André showed that the God of the Catholics, and the religion of the Catholics, are uniquely true. And he did this with meekness, humility, and a great joy that lent a certain seal of authenticity to his prodigies.
2. Love of the Cross. We live in an effeminate age. By this, I do not refer principally to the moral turpitude of homosexuality, although the acceptance of this vice is rather signal of the problems of the day. No, I refer to the general softness and hedonism of our era; that is, to the implicit but nonetheless real conviction in our decrepit culture that pleasure is the only real good and pain is the only real evil. Human suffering makes sense and becomes profitable only in the light of grace and under the shadow of the Cross. Frère André belonged to a religious institute dedicated to the saving Rood: the Congregation of the Holy Cross, founded, as already mentioned, by Blessed Basile Antoine Marie Moreau, whose own life was marked by superhuman sufferings borne with heroic patience.
While it is generally known that Saint Joseph is the patron of this Congregation, relatively few are aware that their principal devotion is to the Passion of Our Lord. Their motto: Crux Spes Unica (the Cross, [our] only hope), indicates this. Our holy man exemplified the "crucified" spirituality of his great religious family: lifelong physical infirmities, inability to eat anything but a type of mush made from flower, frequent stomach infirmities, deprivation of sleep, scandalous false accusations, persecution from his own religious superior. These are just a few of the crosses he carried with admirable courage and forgetfulness of self.
3. French Canada needs him. An Anglophone American speaking of French Canada's sad spiritual condition may not be well received in those parts, but it is nonetheless true that after the 1960's "Quiet Revolution" (Révolution tranquille), Quebec and its environs jettisoned their former Catholicity with a precipitous rapidity. Nobody knows this sad truth better than faithful Catholics from these regions. The sainting of a very public figure - whose miracles were, after all, performed among the grandparents of our contemporaries - might kindle the still glowing embers of French Canada's Faith to a brighter flame.
4. Love of the Gospel. Brother André died in the year 1937, long before various modern attempts to revive the study of Holy Scripture. Yet, he memorized the Sermon on the Mount (every Holy Cross novice had to), and, later, the account of the Passion recorded in each of the four Gospels. These were no mere memory exercises; he meditated on the Scriptures. Now, while it is a terrible injustice to say that the Church in those days did not appreciate the Bible, it is also true that spiritual reading for religious in those days was primarily from devotional books that offered a highly mechanized approach to the spiritual life.
The ancient and medieval forms of religious life, on the other hand, laid great emphasis on reading the Holy Scriptures, especially in the form of "lectio divina," which has been much promoted by the Pope who just canonized Saint André. Frère André belonged to a teaching congregation founded in the nineteenth century, but showing a clear continuity with traditional spirituality, as can be seen in his going to the primary sources of the spiritual life: the Gospels.
5. He was "just a lay ...
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