Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette 2016

"With the smallest brush" Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

“With the smallest brush”
Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

“It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the best painting” Brother Andre

I painted this piece with a small brush and my fingers. Saint Andre told us that the smallest gesture done in love really matters. He had no power or authority in the Church, yet he worked so many miracles and healed so many people. He was the smallest of brushes and God used him to paint a wonderfully beautiful life. Saint Andre was the first religious in the Congregation of Holy Cross to be canonized in 2010. READ “MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE” FROM 2011)

 Loving Father,

 Help us become your instruments of mercy.

Help us model our lives after the care and humility of Saint Andre Bessette.


He was illiterate and yet showed people how to live the Holy Word of God.

He was orphaned and yet welcomed people as brothers and sisters.

He was at first turned down for religious life and yet became our first saint.

He was frail in body and yet strong in his faith and courageous in his belief.

His local community marginalized him and yet he met nearly six hundred people a day.


He believed in Saint Joseph and his faith healed hundreds of people.

He rubbed the sick with oil and prayed for them during his sleepless nights.

He lived so simply and yet hundreds gathered to be with him in prayer.

He encouraged people to pray and confess their sins and realize God’s love.


He lived a full life until ninety-one even though his doctors thought he would die young.

He was patient for the building of Saint Joseph Oratory and he gave everything to God.

 Saint Andre still baffles many in our religious community who are known for education because in simplicity he found God. 

He educates us still by living a simple, prayerful life in service for others.

 Saint Andre was not understood in his earthly life and may never be fully understood in his miracles and sainthood.

 Gracious Father,

 In this Year of Mercy, help us all claim our place on this earth to receive the love you have for us. Help us live for others and to die for our others who most need us.

 We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Source of Mercy, who live forever and ever.



Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us. 







October 17, 2012: Interview at KBVM radio

On Wednesday, October 17, 2012, the second anniversary of the canonization of Saint Andre Bessette, I sat with Dina Marie Hale for an interview at KBVM radio. We discussed the life of Brother Andre and how our parish community lives out his mission of hospitality. We talked about my latest projects, books, talks and even what I learn about preaching among God’s people in poverty. This Advent I begin the eight season of “On the Margins”. I so appreciate the gift of sharing the gospel on radio. I also spoke about my new website for my writing and radio ministries. I hope you have an opportunity to listen to this interview.

Listen now: [audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/75239779/Father%20Ron%20Raab%20on%20Catholic%20Radio%20Oct%2017%202012.mp3]

Stream live On The Margins on KBVM 88.3FM on Saturdays at 7am and Sundays at 8am.

Brother Andre Bessette: Photo from Saint Joseph Oratory

Saint Andre Bessette Church: Photo of Relic of Saint Andre

October 17, 2012: The Second Anniversary of the Canonization of Saint Andre Bessette

Photo from Saint Joseph Oratory in Montreal

During these past three years, I have written 19 articles connecting our ministry here at the parish to the life and works of Saint Andre Bessette. I draw your attention to these articles as we celebrate the second anniversary of his canonization. This past weekend we celebrated our Eucharist reflecting on these connections of hospitality, healing and hope. Several parishioners said to me how good it is for us to celebrate this event since we all remember the day two years ago when the ceremony of canonization took place in Rome and we celebrated here at the parish with great joy.

Salt and Light Television produced a documentary two years ago about Andre Bessette, God’s Doorkeeper, Saint Andre of Montreal. Andy Noethe has taken the section of the documentary that focuses on our ministry and created a six-minute story. You may also view this section at the bottom of the Andre Bessette page on my website.

I will be live on KBVM radio on October 17 at 8:00am speaking about Saint Andre and our mission of welcoming people on the margins of society. On Monday, October 15, unfortunately, our hospitality center broke a record of receiving 163 people in a two hour period. The need is great in downtown Portland for the basics of life, clothing, food, companionship and housing. Our parish community provides what we can offer from our mission of faith and community.

As we remember this day of Andre’s recognition in the Universal Church, I invite you into prayer and reflection. Pray for the Congregation of Holy Cross, our mission especially among God’s poor throughout the world. Please pray for people in need, people who suffer from many years of mental illness or despair. Pray for people who are searching for meaning in their lives. Pray for people who suffer from addictions of drugs, alcohol or sex. Pray from your own experience of needing God. Ask Saint Andre for what you need. Ask Saint Andre to intercede for people who come to us needing the basics of life. Ask Saint Andre to be with us in all suffering and that our pain may become a source of joy in knowing Christ Jesus.

Video: “God’s Doorkeeper: Saint Andre of Montreal”

On October 17, 2012, we will celebrate the second anniversary of the canonization of Andre Bessette. Saint Andre is now the patron of our parish community and a real source of inspiration for our ongoing mission of hospitality to people on the margins of society. In July of 2010, staff members of Salt and Light Television from Toronto, Canada came to our parish to film portions of our outreach ministry and our prayer. This video is a section of the documentary that speaks of our community in action. We have just recently been given permission by Salt and Light to use this video for our purposes here at Saint Andre Bessette Church.

Continue to pray for the mission of our parish community. We are still learning much about Andre’s ministry and work and how to translate his spirituality and dedication here in our time and place. I hope you enjoy the video on my new Youtube page.

Saint Andre Bessette: Feast Day, January 6, 2012 Part 6

(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)

On Sunday, August 16, 2009, our parish community dedicated and blessed the icon of Christ the Healer for our renovated worship space. Archbishop John Vlazny presided over the Eucharist and dedication. The entire parish community processed around the block to present the image of the healing Christ to the four corners of the world. With profound solemnity and prayer, every person present in the procession realized our need to be witnesses to Christ’s healing love in every aspect of our culture and beyond.

Our community bears witness to Christ’s love not only in art but in action. We connect with nearly thirty high schools, colleges, nursing schools and seminaries to invite students to realize the needs of people surviving poverty. We invite them to know that our faith compels us into service in the world without judgment or condemnation of any individual. The stories of suffering create for us a deep humility of prayer for every volunteer, student and parishioner.

Our faith in Christ as members of the Catholic Church is not private. Our posture of faith is bold and open, inviting and inclusive. Our volunteers serve from all walks of life and we invite them to walk with us in our faith and service. We all learn a profound humility from our reliance on God when we are unable to fix or solve the issues of poverty, mental illness and severe loss. We are grounded on the four corners of our block in faith and action but both are felt deeply beyond the parish community.

Brother Andre said, “It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most beautiful pictures.” His simple prayer revealed great healing to many people in his day. He also founded Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada. This is the largest shrine in the world dedicated to Saint Joseph. His humble prayer created great change for many people and his personal devotions became a source of public prayer.

Today, January 6, we celebrate the patron of our parish community, Saint Andre Bessette. Today is the memorial of his death in 1937. Over one million people processed to his funeral in the cold Montreal winter. We stand on our block still longing for healing, still praying in our hearts for the needs of the entire world. We witness to volunteers, students and other community partners that we are centered in God’s love and compelled from that love to serve people most in need of hospitality, healing and hope.

Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us.

Saint Andre Bessette: Feast Day, January 6, 2012 Part 5

(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)

Our parish community strives to connect the prayer of the Church with dedicated service of people. We celebrate Mass with honesty and intention which calls each member to serve people in need. We are feed by God in our small chapel on the corner of 6th Street and Burnside and we welcome people every morning to be nourished with food, companionship and nonviolence.

Every year on Holy Thursday, we wash feet during the Mass, the ritual prayer of the Church. We also wash feet every Wednesday in our hospitality which connects us to Jesus’ request to not only be feed at the altar of the Eucharist but also to wash the feet of people in need.

Members of our staff begin our hospitality center every morning reflecting on the upcoming Sunday Gospel that will be proclaimed at Mass. We pray for people who will fill our upstairs center and then learn a deep humility by caring for people, offering clothing and food, hygiene products and haircuts, bus tickets and a kind conversation.

Brother Andre lived from a deep devotion to the Mass and to the saints. He prayed for the intercession of Mary and Joseph to care for people who were ill and living in chronic fear and pain. He often spent the nights in prayer offering the suffering of people whom he had met during the day to God. He slept only a couple of hours a night because of his great devotion to God and his love for people who came to him in their suffering.

We connect our prayer and service by praying for people who have been murdered in our neighborhood. For the past ten years, after a murder occurs in Old Town, our parish community processes from Sunday Mass into the streets to pray for the victim and for peace. We are compelled by the love of God and the suffering of our neighbors to take our prayer out of the chapel confines and into the brutal issues of the streets. At the conclusion of our prayer we also pray that we will never have to pray on the streets again.

Saint Andre Bessette models for our parish community how to trust God in the midst of suffering and poverty. Brother Andre believed in his heart that God alone can heal people who feel worthless and abandoned. We strive in our parish community to put that belief into practice in so many different ways during our prayer to God and our service to people.

Saint Andre Bessette: Feast Day, January 6, 2012 Part 4

(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)

Our neighborhood is desperate for healing. Answers to long term poverty and heartache elude us on a daily basis. Our parish community walks with people in the mystery of human suffering. Our faith provides solace when our efforts fail, when human trial is beyond our expertise, when our answers fall short. Our parish community relies on a power greater than our selves to make sense of human tragedy and anguish.

Alfred (Andre) Bessette was born on August 9, 1845. He was a sickly child and by the time he was twelve years old, he was orphaned. He experienced poverty, loss and hardship. He professed his vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1872 even though the community was reluctant to receive him because of his illiteracy and poor health. He developed a great devotion as a child to Jesus Christ and to Saint Joseph. When he was assigned to become the porter at the college, the gift of healing became evident to those he welcomed. The first written testimonies of cures attributed to his prayers were published when his was 31 years old.

Brother Andre received 600 people a day asking for healing. Many people were cured of their physical ailments and many others were brought to a deeper faith in God. Healing happened in many ways through his forty years of answering the door at the college.

Saint Andre Bessette becomes a model for us of hospitality and healing as we base our ministry in the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. The mission of the Gospel challenges us to welcome to stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the imprisoned. Healing happens when community is formed, when our reliance on God is celebrated, when we turn to God for the answers we so desperately seek. We live and pray in the mystery of addictions, mental illness and long term poverty.

Photo: We celebrate the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick at each Mass on Wednesdays and on the first Sundays of the Month. This is one aspect of our healing ministry at Saint Andre Bessette Church.

Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us.

Saint Andre Bessette: Feast Day, January 6, 2012 Part 3

(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)

Many present organizations and service agencies in our Old Town community were founded by various Roman Catholic communities. For example, Blanchet House began serving food from the faith of former University of Portland students and clergy. Transition Projects and Sisters of the Road had their origins in the social teachings of the Church and several other non-profit organizations created models of hospitality for people in our neighborhood.

For many years, our parish community hosted Loaves and Fishes and the MacDonald Center. Both agencies found new homes prior to 2002. Now the MacDonald Center, founded by Rev. Richard Berg, CSC, which opened in 2000 continues just a block away.

Since 2001, our parish has sponsored a hospitality center in our building. The mission of welcoming the stranger is rooted in the message of the Gospel and the living out of the Eucharist. Hospitality is a radical acceptance of people. We cannot fix people’s longterm suffering or take away the violence people deal with every day. We can offer the basics of life, call people by name and create a safe environment for a few hours a day.

Hospitality is the message of Saint Andre’s life as well. He served as the Porter at Notre Dame College in Montreal, opening the door to people, listening to people’s stories. The grace that Andre was given was that he also was an agent of healing for many people. In our day, we believe that hospitality is also a grace and model of healing. We accept the stranger, provide a serving of food and offer a place of rest. Andre’s life continues in our community as we learn the complexities of people’s stories and pray through the suffering so many people experience.

Saint Andre, pray for us.

Saint Andre Bessette: Feast Day, January 6, 2012 Part 2

(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)

The first priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross to serve as pastor of the Downtown Chapel was Reverend Richard Berg, CSC who began his ministry in the late 1980’s. He served until 2001. During the Provincial Chapter of the Indiana Province in 2000, the Holy Cross community decided to make the Downtown Chapel a commitment of the community. In 2001, Reverend Robert Loughery, CSC was appointed pastor of the Downtown Chapel as the first pastor in this new agreement between the Archdiocese of Portland and the Congregation of Holy Cross. He served as pastor until 2010.

In July 2010, Reverend Steve Newton, CSC was assigned as pastor to the Downtown Chapel. The name change of the Downtown Chapel to Saint Andre Bessette Church serves as a sign of the commitment of the Congregation of Holy Cross to the ministry of people living in poverty and surviving homelessness, mental illness and addictions. The presence of Holy Cross also makes the commitment of education and formation for people serving other people in the issues of social justice and nonviolence. The Congregation of Holy Cross also serves the University of Portland and Holy Redeemer Church in Portland, Oregon.

On Sunday, October 17, 2010, Brother Andre Bessette, the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross was canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Brother Andre

was also the first male to be canonized from Canada. His simple life and ministry of healing provides for our parish community a patron that certainly lived a life identifying with suffering and poverty, with illness and homelessness. This moment in our parish community of changing our identity, our name, is significant for our parish and very significant for the Congregation of Holy Cross.

This photo was taken on Sunday, October 17, 2010 during our parish celebration of Brother Andre’s canonization in Rome. The photos of Brother Andre and the relic are now a part of our worship space.

Saint Andre Bessette, pray for us.

Saint Andre Bessette: Feast Day, January 6, 2012 Part 1

(This is a six part series leading up to January 6, the Feast Day of Saint Andre Bessette, the patron of our parish community.)

The Downtown Chapel began in 1919 as an outreach to sailors returning from World War I. The original Catholic worship space provided sacraments and the basics of life to men who were struggling to find work and a way back into civilian life.

In 1943, the Downtown Chapel became a parish of the Archdiocese of Portland. The new name was Saint Vincent de Paul Church. The two names remained as the identity of the parish even in the many physical moves of the church. Today, we are housed in the fifth location of the parish worship space.

The two names of the parish remained confusing for many people. Many people did not know that the Downtown Chapel was a Catholic community. The name Saint Vincent de Paul was confused with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

In January 2011, the Archdiocese of Portland changed the name of the parish to, “Saint Andre Bessette Church.” This was at the request of the new pastor, Father Steve Newton, CSC. This was in honor of Brother Andre being canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday, October 17, 2010.

Since that time, we have been gradually using the new name of the parish. This week in celebration of Saint Andre’s Feast Day, we will promote the new name to all of our parishioners and community partners.

In the past several years, we have remodeled the worship space and the exterior of the building. The new exterior sign will be installed in a couple of months. This photo shows the remodeling process from several years ago, but is still an image of our renaming our parish community, “Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church.”