Celebrating a Saint: He is a distant relative

Fr Andre Leveille, CSC

Here is the second in our series of personal reflections from Holy Cross religious on what Blessed Brother André, who will be canonized October 17, means to them. This week's comes from Fr. André Léveillé, C.S.C:

A million people attended Brother André's funeral in 1937, and his name became very popular among French Canadian families including my own. I was born nine years later and was baptized “Joseph André”. (Joseph always preceded the first name for all newborn boys.)

As a seminarian I spent the summer of 1974 living with the Holy Cross community at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. I spoke at length with Fr. Emile Deguire, C.S.C., who had been Brother André's superior in the 1930's. He told me that one evening Brother André visited his office as was his custom to review his day, speaking especially of those who were seriously ill. After they had both retired, Fr. Deguire was awakened by a clinking sound and got up to see if the elderly brother needed some assistance. Brother André was kneeling next to his bed reciting the rosary and the beads were hitting the metal bed post. The superior asked him if it wasn't time to go to bed, and brother answered that he had to pray for all of the suffering and anguish he had seen and heard from the sick. In reply the superior said, “Nevertheless, I think you should go to bed.” Brother obeyed immediately. This story for me put a human face to a saint and demonstrated a spirit of obedience.

For about twenty years I made a retreat at St. Joseph's Oratory the week between Christmas and New Years. I used to sit in Brother André's seat in the choir stall of the crypt church for about an hour each evening. It was very cold especially in the evening, and few visitors came after supper. One night a young man, evidently ill with cancer, walked in the softly lit church. He could not see me, but I could see him. He put his hands on the statue of Brother André and prayed silently, repeating the same gestures at the statue of St. Joseph. He left quietly, and I remained in silence praying in my heart: “Frere André you are still receiving the sick here on Mount Royal, please intercede for this young man.”

Today I minister as a chaplain at Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame, Indiana, a facility for senior religious brothers as well as lay people. One of the largest residential buildings is named “André Place” and some ask me if I am related to the André name. I reply with a smile, “Yes, he is a distant relative.” In my ministry there I often mention Brother André in my preaching and teaching. In my own room, I keep next to my desk a statue of St. Joseph, a bas-relief of Brother André, and his relic. I often glance up and pray especially in the evening when I review my day. I pray Brother André and St. Joseph will guide me in my life and ministry. That's a good thing, because after all the name on my baptismal certificate is “Joseph André”.

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