Brother Andre Series: Number Eight
I learn a new reliance on God every single day. God teaches me this greater dependence because I do not know where else to turn with people’s overwhelming concerns. I cannot fix a young man who was in recovery from heroin and relapses just before his child is born. A young prostitute sneaks into the chapel to speak with me about the men who control her. An elderly man battling severe mental illness and loneliness confesses to me again in our hospitality center of his ongoing addiction to pornography. The circumstances of people’s lives demand from all of us a deep and unending faith.
Our ministry at the Downtown Chapel invites me into days of unanswerable questions, never-ending emotional turmoil and unsolvable situations. From the lives of people living in poverty, I learn how to trust God and come to terms with the fact that God alone heals. I must believe that there is more to come, that God is not finished with even the most stubborn of personalities. This is the place in ministry that challenges me into a deep and profound holiness.
Brother Andre exuded a real and often harsh holiness. He was often impulsive and certainly not perfect in his dealing with people who needed him the most. He stood on his feet for hours listening to people, and constantly being present to people was hard work for him. Especially as the years passed by and his own health grew precarious he grew more emotionally exhausted from his office hours. However, he never let go of his role to offer people a kind word and to lead them to Saint Joseph and ultimately to the love of Christ.
Brother Andre’s relationship with God and his real humanity grew together in his ministry and with his aging. Father Cousineau, Brother Andre’s Superior, recalls this daily tension, “During the early years of his work, Brother Andre rarely showed any signs of impatience….As he neared the end of his life, especially in the last three or four years, he did indeed express impatience more frequently….Many people, frightened by his ascetic expression or by the abruptness with which he put an end to meaningless conversations, failed to notice that Brother Andre maintained, despite his abrupt demeanor, a facial serenity which was the mirror of his inner peace….His outbursts of impatience were attributable, at least in my opinion, to his old age, to his failing health, and to the weariness his work caused him…”
Brother Andre’s holiness comes from entering into people’s unending physical and emotional suffering. He knew that only God could heal the people who came to him. He became harsh when he understood that healing was possible but the people doubted. He teaches us still in our day to believe in the power of Christ Jesus no matter our pain and uncertainty.