And the story goes on … Oh, when the saints, go marching in … O Lord, I want to be in that number! That sounded in my heart throughout the pilgrimage that I made this past fall break to the Oratory of St. Joseph with students from the University of Notre Dame. We were getting to be part of the rest of the pilgrims who have been going to "Celebrate the Saint" in the person of St. André Bessette at the Oratory in Montreal.
All the prayers of the novena, the different reflections in the talks, the preaching, and the intentions of each pilgrim (both those spoken and those in our hearts) could be summarized in the theme of "marching with the saints" in our journey of faith. By the time we were making our personal encounter with Saint André, we already had been in prayerful presence with St. Kateri Tekakwitha (a week before her canonization) and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys. Thus it was a pilgrimage full of the saints' experience, long before reaching St. André himself.
There is a great witness that is being shown at the Oratory of St. Joseph, because St. André who we celebrate today continues to teach us lessons of humility and of faithfulness to God in ways that cannot be comprehended. In his life in this world and in his life as a saint now in heaven, he still bears witness that those virtues can make our faith strong, able to see in every person encountered the presence God.
The experience of people of all ages and from all walks of life "hiking" hundreds of stairs on their knees reciting the rosary; the experience of thousands of people lighting a candle for themselves or for a loved one or praying in front of a St. Joseph statue or the tomb of St. André; the experience of hundreds of people on a normal weekday flocking to the different chapels at the Oratory at different hours to attend the celebration of the Eucharist as the culmination of their different pilgrimages – all this tells us that this is far more than just a visit to a great and beautiful place, but a journey with a purpose, a journey of faith, a journey with "the saints" … a pilgrimage.
As St. André himself would say to all those pilgrims, "Ite ad Joseph, Go to Joseph." It is nothing more than one saint pointing to another saint in order to reach Christ, the ultimate Saint. Very soon one finds that in this (our own) pilgrimage: "We are all Saints," going to visit a saint, who points us to another saint … who in the end points us to Christ. In so doing, each saint ends up to God himself.
We may get this understanding from many saints, but this Miracle Man of Montreal in the most powerful, yet simple way, has shown us that the way of the saints is "a way" within "the way." It is The Way to Christ … The Way to God.
As we celebrate the feast of St. André today, we continue to "Celebrate the Saint" whose human life and death still shines as an example of an unwavering follower of Christ through the example of faithfulness and humility … all learnt from another saint.
St. André, pray for us!
Fr. David Eliaona, C.S.C., professed Final Vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on January 6, 2007, and was ordained to the priesthood on January 26, 2008. From Tanzania, Fr. David is a member of the Holy Cross District of East Africa, which is a mission of the United States Province. He currently lives at the University of Notre Dame, where he is pursuing a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) in the area of Systematic Theology. He hopes to use his studies to teach in the future. Learn more about St. André Bessette, including his life story, as well as other saintly heroes in Holy Cross.