Brother Andre Series: Number One

Last month a film crew from Salt + Light Television Productions from Toronto, Canada filmed aspects of our ministry at the Downtown Chapel. Their cameras rolled for two days here because they are producing a documentary about Brother Andre Bessette, CSC. He will be officially named a saint in the Roman Catholic Church this October 17, 2010.

Brother Andre is very well known throughout Canada for his prayerful intercessions for people suffering from physical, emotional and spiritually pain. He touched thousands of people through his faith and prayer in the early 1900’s. The film crew caught images of our welcoming the homeless, feeding the hungry and washing the feet of the tired. Brother Andre still makes his home among us—the marginalized.

Brother Andre’s healing power still extends well beyond the borders of nations or the confines of generations. Our ministry at the Downtown Chapel continues his care and work in our neighborhood of poverty and suffering. His prayer for our community begins here at our red doors. Many of our neighbors, parishioners and guests remain smothered in violent relationships, overwhelming fear about the future and inconsolable suffering on a daily basis. Brother Andre still makes his home here among us, inviting us through these iconic red doors into a community of prayer and service.

Brother Andre was born (named Alfred) on August 9, 1845 about thirty miles from Montreal. His father died when he was nine years old. He was always sickly and his mother spent much of her attention on him even though she had eleven other children. She could not afford to care for her children so she offered them for adoption. She cared for Alfred until her death just two years after her husband’s death.

Alfred was poor, sickly and orphaned but his faith strengthened him. In the center of so many hardships he turned to Saint Joseph for courage and hope. Alfred made his home in the love of God, the promise of Christ’s healing. After his mother’s death, the illiterate Alfred struggled from job to job trying to support himself at a young age. He was a baker, cobbler and janitor and he tried to make a living across the border of the United States as well.

Alfred felt a deep calling from God to enter a religious community. At the request of his local parish priest, the Congregation of Holy Cross accepted him into formation even though he was so frail. The pastor told members of Holy Cross, “I am sending you a saint.” As Alfred was accepted into the community, he was given the name, “Andre.” Brother Andre finally found a home in God, in religious life and in service to Saint Joseph.

(I begin this series on the weekend of Brother Andre’s birthday. This series will continue weekly throughout October 2010)

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