Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., formed the Congregation of Holy Cross in the aftermath of the French Revolution, exhorting his religious to conform themselves to Christ by trusting in Divine Providence, by finding self-emptying hope in the Cross, by standing by others as the Mother of Sorrows stood by her Son and by working together zealously as educators in the faith. These core virtues comprise the mainstay of the Holy Cross tradition.
St. André was committed to the Holy Cross virtues as they were given to the community by its founder, Blessed Moreau.
Below are insights into the core virtues of Holy Cross that come from his life and work.
Ave Crux, Spes Unica
St. André knew the cross very well. He encountered it in his own life, being orphaned at an early age and enduring frail health for most of his life. He also encountered it in his daily ministry. In the faces of the people who lined up outside of the Oratory to see him, he saw crosses of sickness, affliction and desperation. And he never shied away from these crosses year after year. Not everyone who saw him experienced physical healings, but all of them experienced the love of Christ in this humble brother. Because he was a man with hope to bring, he enabled the sick and the suffering to experience that same hope in their own crosses.
Educators in the Faith
With little formal education, St. André Bessette seems like an unlikely “educator in the faith.” True, he never exercised a formal ministry as a teacher. Yet he saw countless opportunities in his ministry to teach people the faith. He loved to spend time talking with people about St. Joseph or about the Lord’s Passion. And not only did he teach people how to pray, he also showed them how to pray by praying with them. His consistent faithfulness underscores our obligation and our opportunity to educate people in the faith in every aspect of our daily work.
Trust in Divine Providence
Nowhere was St. André’s trust in Divine Providence more evident than in the foundation and expansion of St. Joseph’s Oratory. Despite the many obstacles he encountered in its construction, somehow he knew in his heart that this shrine was God’s will. Time after time, friends and benefactors came forward to lend their skills and resources to this project when all seemed lost. During one work stoppage, when the basilica still lacked a roof, St. André famously said, “Put a statue of Saint Joseph in the center of the church, and if he wants a roof over his head, he’ll take care of it.” He always had complete confidence that, if he were really doing the Lord’s will, the Lord would bring it to fruition.
Zeal is the Desire to Make God Known, Loved and Served
Between his dedication to prayer and the demands of his ministry, St. André Bessette maintained an exhausting schedule. In the last decades of his life, he spent long days receiving sick people at the Oratory, only to spend his evenings visiting even more sick people in homes or hospitals. Yet he never sought to attract a following for himself; his exhaustive labors were always dedicated to leading others to God. Even as many miraculous cures were attributed to his intercession, he always deflected the praise away from himself and towards Jesus and his foster-father, St. Joseph. Despite the great works God accomplished through him, he was always content to be known as “St. Joseph’s little dog.”