. Born Alfred Bessette in Saint-Grégoire, Quebec
, outside of Montreal
, the city where he would spend most of his life, except for a brief time spent working in New England
- e.g. he was a factory
worker in Connecticut
. Frère André. Beatified as "Blessed André" (a not-yet "Saint
André") by John Paul II
. He was a small, frail man, unable at times to digest solid food; that frailty almost got him rejected when he
tried to join the Holy Cross Order; it took the intervention of the Bishop of Montreal, who saw the prayerful qualities in André, to get the Holy Cross Fathers to reconsider. (And since André lived to be 92, maybe he wasn't so frail
after all - if "laughter is the best medicine
", his jolly demeanor must have been a fountain of youth
and health for him).
As "Frère André", he became, despite his humble efforts to deflect the attention, a legend; via his counsel, physical (and spiritual) healings occurred in people, through prayer and devotion to St. Joseph (foster-father of Jesus) and the application of something called "l'huile de saint Joseph" ("St. Joseph's Oil"). Once word spread of the healings, pilgrims flocked to Collège Nôtre-Dame (where he worked as a porter and gardener, and where the healings began, among students in the infirmary) in search of healing.
The school would eventually become deluged with sick people, so André was transferred to the St. Joseph shrine that he was trying to build (the shrine - l'Oratoire
Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal - would be finished in 1955; the notion to build it came to André in a childhood dream). He would receive tens of thousands of letters a year, and tried to respond to each one
individually, but since he could neither read nor write, he would dictate his responses to one of the many secretaries assigned to him.
His feast day on the Catholic calendar is January 6.
"Personally, I am nothing. God chose the most ignorant one. If there is anyone more ignorant than I am, the good God would have chosen him."