On Oct. 17, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Holy Cross’ first saint, Br. André Bessette, C.S.C. St. André — who battled sickness for much of his own life — humbly devoted his life to prayer, serving the Lord and comforting the sick and afflicted. Through his intercession prayers to St. Joseph, many received God’s healing graces.
Born Alfred Bessette in Quebec in 1845, he was orphaned by the time he was 12. With little-to-no formal education, he became a Holy Cross brother and because of his sickly nature, was assigned as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, a post he held for nearly 40 years. It was in this role as a porter that St. André was able to minister to the sick.
He prayed with them to God and St. Joseph, as an intercessor. Hundreds credit their healing to St. André’s prayers. The walls of St. Joseph’s Oratory are lined with crutches of those who were healed, but St. André always gave credit to God and St. Joseph’s intercession as Jesus’ earthly father.
As he became known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal,” St. André was later assigned full-time as the caretaker of the church that he built to honor St. Joseph. He spent his days seeing healing the sick. By the 1920s, the Oratory hosted more than a million pilgrims annually, and hundreds of cures were attributed to his prayers every year.
St. André Bessette died in Montreal on Jan. 6, 1937. It is estimated that more than a million people made the pilgrimage to the Oratory to say their good-byes to their beloved Brother André. He was beatified on May 23, 1982, and canonized in October 2010, becoming the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint. Worldwide the Congregation of Holy Cross community observes St. André’s Feast Day on Jan. 7, because the Vatican and many nations observe the feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6.
Learn more about St. André Bessette’s life, faith and canonization.