Brother Andre in 1920
Canadian laybrother. Alfred Bessette was born on August 9, 1845, near Montreal in Canada, the eighth of twelve children. When Alfred was nine, his father, a wood cutter, died in a work accident. Three years later, his mother died of TB. The children were split up and placed in different homes. Alfred went to live with an aunt and uncle.
Because his family had been so poor and he was often sick, Alfred had very little education. For the next thirteen years he had jobs on a farm, with a shoemakers, and at a bakery. For a time he worked in a factory in Connecticut.
At the age of 25, he joined the order of Holy Cross and chose the name Brother Andre. He spent the next forty years as a general maintenance man and messenger. In his later years he worked as a doorman at the order's college. Here, Brother Andre's healing power became known. Many came to him with their illnesses and problems. As more and more people learnt about him he would spend eight to ten hours a day with those who needed spiritual healing and support. He became so well known that secretaries had to be assigned to answer the 80,000 letters he received annually.
When people came to ask him for a cure, he would tell them to first thank God for their suffering because it was so valuable. Then he would pray with them. Most were cured. Brother Andre always refused credit for the healing. He insisted it had been the person's faith and the power of St Joseph.
Brother Andre had a great love for the Eucharist and for St Joseph. For many years he gathered funds to rebuild a run down little chapel on Mont Royale. One way he raised money was by cutting the hair of the students at five cents each. The Oratory that he helped to build in honour of St Joseph was solemnly dedicated in 1955.
Brother Andre died peacefully on this day in 1937. Braving sleet and snow, nearly a million people climbed Mount Royale to St Joseph's Oratory for his funeral. He was proclaimed 'Blessed' on May 23, 1982, by Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree of sainthood for Blessed André on February 19, 2010, with the formal canonization taking place on October 17, 2010.