On January 7th, we, here in Canada, celebrated the feast day of our patron saint, St. Andre Bessette, or as he is also known, Brother Andre of Montreal. Our neighbours to the south, the Americans, celebrate St. Andre’s feast day on January 6th. Why the discrepancy one might ask? The reason is that the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord is celebrated on January 6th, and the Epiphany of the Lord being a universal feast day of the Church, supersedes any feast days (greater, or universally celebrated feast day in the Church’s calendar, in the hierarchy of feast days always trump the local Canadian feast days). As a result, the feast day of St. Andre Bessette is moved to the following day with the approval of the Holy See.
Because Canadian winters can be quite cold and harsh and are not ideal for pilgrims to make their pilgrimages to St. Joseph’s Oratory (the Church St. Andre built) the Canadian Bishops have petitioned the Holy See to have St. Andre’s feast day moved to a time when there are more favourable weather conditions to allow for pilgrimages. Let us hope for a favourable response sometime soon!
A bit about our patron saint: St. Andre was born as Alfred Bessette in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, in a small town near Montreal, as the eighth of twelve children, on August 9th, 1845. Since his birth, Brother Andre was always frail. When Alfred was nine years old his father tragically died in an accident, and three years later, his mother dying from tuberculosis, left him an orphan at the age of twelve.
Alfred made many attempts to find a stable job but each time he was either turned away or let go because he was small in stature, weak, and frail. When Alfred was working for his pastor, Fr. Andre Provencal, he recognized Alfred’s faith and vocation and sent him to the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal with a letter to the superior of the Congregation stating, “I am sending you a saint.” Even with this extraordinary letter, Alfred was rejected because of his frail health. That is when the Archbishop of Montreal intervened. And as a result Alfred was accepted and became Brother Andre. Br. Andre was entrusted with the task of being porter at Notre Dame College, as well as sacristan, laundry worker, and messenger. For 40 years he remained faithful in his simple duties.
Br. Andre had a great confidence and devotion to St. Joseph, and many of his prayers were answered and many more received miraculous healings. Br. Andre was visited and befriended by so many pilgrims during his life time that when he died at the age of 91 in 1937, a million people came to mourn. St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Church he envisioned and completed 30 years after his passing, receives approximately 2 million visitors annually.
May St. Andre intercede from heaven for us so that we too may grow in confidence of St. Joseph and so that we will reach our dream of having our beautiful church building in Maple soon.
Genuit Parens Noster Est Finis
If the joy of God and of the Angels in the Nativity of Mary was great, ours shall be no less, because, after all, Our Blessed Lady was born especially for us. She has our own nature, and it is we who are to enjoy the benefits of that happy birth.
Our Joy. The birth of our Heavenly Mother is the end of a sad night; a night of centuries during which mankind was buried. Isaias says that men were submerged in the shadows of death, since sad indeed is the night of sin, and nothing can be compared with it so well as the black and terrible darkness of death.
See mankind filing past without seeing a ray of light in the midst of that darkness. How sad is night. What, then, would be a night of many years, of many centuries? In the midst of this night there used to shine a few holy souls, but in comparison with the surrounding darkness their light was as nothing. The darkness could not be dispelled.
When the night is pitch dark, and the light of the stars cannot be seen, we cannot take one safe step. We grope and labor under the fear of stumbling over something.
But if in the darkness we see the light of the dawn, a light which spreads every minute, increasing in clarity and light, then we feel joy; a joy completed when at length the sun fully shines.
So it was when Mary appeared in the darkness of death: she was the sweet aurora heralding the dawn of God, a promise of the Divine Sun which will soon appear to cast its rays on the whole earth.
As the light of dawn rises in the East, the animals of the forest hide themselves in their dens while the nocturnal birds flee away. Instead, the innocent little birds of the air chirp and sing, the flowers open and give forth their perfume, while all things are clad in gorgeous colors. So it was when Mary was born. The devils flee, the Angels sing, virtues flourish, and the whole world is filled with light and joy. How beautiful and magnificent was the morning of our Redemption!
Your own joy. And who, on realizing what has happened in the world, does not share this joy? Does not the heart of every man rejoice? Do you not feel it also within yourself?
Do you not see that the darkness of death and sin which once flooded your heart has gone away and that now there is a shining light which enlightens and guides you to your eternal destiny? That light which comes to you from Mary is Christ. She is the light of your life.
Imagine the arid desert without flowers, without plants, without life. But as soon as it is irrigated with fresh water, there will be palm trees bearing green branches and fruit.
A barren vine may yield no fruit; but graft a healthy branch on to it, and it will produce rich sweet grapes. That is the picture of your soul: an arid desert, a barren vine. If your vine bears fruit, it is because Christ has, by means of Mary, been grafted into you. If your soul is not barren, it is because our Blessed Lady has planted in your heart the sweet oasis of Jesus.
Remember the little cloud of Elias, a symbol of Mary, that brought fertility to a dry land. In the same way Mary has rendered the earth fertile: through her there have sprung up lilies of virginity, roses of love. The same will happen in your heart, but only with her and through her. Do not forget that without her, there is but barren land, dry desert, a withered branch. Should you not rejoice at the Nativity of Our Lady, a Nativity so glorious and fruitful for your soul?
Jesus is Always Preceded by Mary. Lastly, this birth reminds us of the most sweet truth, that Mary goes always in front of Jesus. God ordained that, in nature, the sun should not rise all of a sudden, but should be preceded by the clarity of the dawn. He has made the same arrangement in the order of grace. He disposed that the Word made flesh should appear in the world only after having been heralded by the splendid dawn of this Maiden, Queen of the Angels, conceived without stain.
God has so arranged that the Sun of Justice, Our Lord Jesus Christ, should not rise and shine in our souls without them having been previously visited by the Mother of All Grace. He has decided that His kingdom should not be established in this world unless there be first set in it the throne of Mary. Mary is, therefore, the dawn of Jesus. Study Mary deeply, love her filially in order to know and love Jesus. Examine yourself on this most important point. See whether you do everything with Mary and through Mary in order to please Jesus. Imitate Mary, empty your soul of yourself and fill it with her, and thus be filled with that Divine life which Jesus wishes to bring to your soul.