Brother Andre Series: Number Five
I arrived at the Downtown Chapel in March of 2002. My two and a half day journey from South Bend, Indiana was filled with anxiety and restlessness. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be here in the first place. I left my previous assignment emotionally fragile and quite uncertain about my life within the Church. I questioned my own abilities, gifts and even my desire to continue in ministry.
After unpacking my belongings and sorting through all my doubts and questions, I gradually began to be present to people who live with very few possessions and who face incredible suffering. I slowly saw my fear melt away as I entered into relationship with people here. As the weeks and months turned into years, I grew into realizing that my suffering was the real place to meet other people’s pain and hardship.
Brother Andre ministered among suffering people because he understood all too well his own ill health, his lack of education and even his isolation after losing his parents. For Andre, suffering was a vehicle to God’s love and grace. As many people approached him for healing, he sought first to heal their souls. He expected an act of faith or a sign of trust from the hearts of people who were physically ill. His deepest desire was to have people believe wholeheartedly in the love of God. To Andre, God’s grace was the only source for emotional and physical healing and maturity.
Brother Andre instructed people with simple requests such as holding a medal of Saint Joseph or praying a simple act of trust to God. He invited people to go to confession or to receive Communion or pray a penance. By May 9, 1878, the first written testimony of five cures attributed to Brother Andre was published. Brother Andre’s complete trust in God led him to offer people great hope as he requested healing of their bodily pain.
Brother Andre told this story in utter amazement, “A man who was wounded while hunting came to my office. The lead shot buried in his flesh had poisoned it and the doctors said his hand had to be amputated. I rubbed it with Saint Joseph’s oil. The poisoned flesh dripped to the ground like melting grease. My hands were covered with it. He left perfectly cured…” There are many signs of healing in Saint Joseph Oratory, canes, crutches and wheel chairs that hang on walls as symbols of trust, love and the comfort of Christ Jesus.
Unfortunately, most forms of healing at the Downtown Chapel are not so immediate. The healing we know does not come in an instant, no matter how strong our belief. Healing in most cases is fragile, unsteady and may take years to be fully realized. The life-long battles of mental illness require medication for the body and community for the soul in order to heal. The consequences of being abused as a child, loss of employment, and the emotional turmoil of life after war all take time and patience to endure. Healing comes from a radical belief in God and in the unfolding of all of our lives.
(Photo: By: Steve Scardina, Saint Joseph Oratory 2010)