Tonight on Perspectives: It’s Monday and Catholics in Montreal have much to celebrate today. We tell you why. Prince George has a new Bishop and a look at the Vatican from this past weekend.
Today as we celebrate the feast of St. André Bessette, join Father Thomas Rosica CSB, CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, for an inspiring reflection on the remarkable life of Saint André: Montreal’s porter and heaven’s gatekeeper.
Host Mary Rose Bacani discovers the heart-warming stories of pilgrims who travel to Saint Joseph’s Oratory from all over the world in search of peace, holiness and healing. She also visits the Cantins, a family from Southwestern Ontario that has one of the most impressive archives of Br. André in North America.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. André Bessette, our first Canadian-born saint. We invite you to watch S+L’s documentary, God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal. Discover the miracle of St. André: a life devoted to prayer and generous service to the sick and needy.
On Saturday, October 15th, a group of 46 students from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana came to Toronto. It was the first day of a 5-day pilgrimage ending at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. They arrived in the afternoon and visited the World Youth Day sites in the city. That evening, I gave a talk at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre at the request of their pilgrimage leader, Fr. Andrew Gawrych, a priest from the Congregation of Holy Cross. Fr. Gawrych was interviewed for the documentary “God’s Doorkeeper”.
I shared my experience of Brother Andre while working on the film “God’s Doorkeeper”. It has been a year since the film’s release, and so I watched the film once again, looked through my notes at the time of production, and it all started coming back to me. I was able to talk not only about my experience during the production, but also what I’ve learned since then. There have been many blessings in my life since then, the greatest being the birth of my daughter Chiara Andrea. I was very happy to have both my husband Richard Valenti and our daughter present as I shared about Brother Andre in my life.
Among those canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at the Vatican was Canadian Brother André Bessette, of the Congregation of Holy Cross. For nearly 40 years Brother André worked as a porter at the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in the Montreal neighborhood of Côtes-des-Neiges. Speaking about his assignment as doorman, he once quipped, “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door.”
As porter of the College, Brother André lived in a small room located near the main entrance that also served as his office. He urged people who came to him to pray with confidence and perseverance, while remaining open to God’s will. He admonished people to begin their path to healing through commitments to faith and humility, through confession and a return to the sacraments. He encouraged the sick to seek a doctor’s care. He saw value in suffering that is joined to the sufferings of Christ. He allowed himself to be fully present to the sadness of others but always retained a joyful nature and good humor. At times he was seen weeping along with his visitors as they recounted to him their sorrows and difficulties. Word spread quickly when many of those with whom he prayed were healed. As Brother André was becoming known as a miracle worker, he insisted all the more, “I am nothing…only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph.”
It feels like just yesterday that we celebrated the canonization of Brother André of Montreal, the first Canadian-born male Saint. The lead-up to this historic event last year, as well as the Commemoration Mass in Olympic Stadium, remains fresh in our minds at S+L. To celebrate the first anniversary, S+L will air highlights from last year’s events, as well as our documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal.
Here is the schedule of our St. André coverage:
1. Rebroadcast of the Mass of Thanksgiving in Rome with Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
Sunday, October 16 at 10:00 am ET (Bilingual commentary)
2. Rebroadcast of the Commemorative Mass at Olympic Stadium in Montreal
Sunday, October 16 at 3:30 pm ET (English)
3. S+L original documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal
Sunday, October 16 at 8:30 pm & 12:30 pm ET (English)
4. Portier de Dieu (French version of God’s Doorkeeper)
Monday, October 17 at 9:00 pm & 1:00 am ET (French)
We also invite you to purchase your own copy of God’s Doorkeeper. This one-hour documentary highlights the life and history of St. André. Get your copy today at our online store or by calling 1-888-302-7181.
St. André, pray for us!
Last week, the Downtown Chapel in Portland, Oregon, made a special announcement: they’re changing their parish name. A recent degree by the Archbishop of Portland will change the Church’s patronage from St. Vincent de Paul to the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint, St. André Bessette.
For any of you who have seen the documentary God’s Doorkeeper: St. André of Montreal, you may recall the foot washing scene. This was filmed at the Downtown Chapel, an apostolate of the Congregation of Holy Cross for over 20 years.
This name change is significant for the Downtown Chapel because it affects their identity. The idea of changing the name is not new to them. The pastor, Fr. Steve Newton, CSC, has this to say about the process his parish had gone through:
When I first met with the Archbishop in September, I asked him whether it might even be possible to change our name. He had people in his office research this. Our staff had been considering names such as Christ the Healer (after the icon in the worship space) and St. André Bessette. In the excitement of André’s canonization this past October, that emerged as the more popular of the two. Of course, he was also a member of our Holy Cross Congregation.
We thought that once we found out if it were even possible to make a change, we would have a parish forum to discuss whether we wanted to and, if so, what name we would want.
But before we could do that, we received a decree stating that the Archbishop had changed our name to St. André Bessette Church. There was to be an article in the Catholic Sentinel announcing the change! I asked the Archdiocese to hold off until we could discuss it as a parish. They agreed.
We discussed it Sunday, January 16, at the forum. The acceptance of the change was quite high. A lot of good reasons for doing so were mentioned by those present. And although there was no opposition among those present, I want to invite feedback from those who could not be present. We can be proud to be among the first parishes in the world with the name St. André Bessette Church.
But we have no intention of rushing to change our name on signs and stationery. It takes time to do all that needs to be done when any organization makes a name change. One of the goals of the planning process will be to identify all the things that need to be done before we drop one name and go to the other. The official name has been changed; the popular name will take some time.
Find out more about the Downtown Chapel and its name change, by going here.
This year we celebrated Brother André’s first feast day as Saint André.
There were many special celebrations throughout Canada, and at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral there was a bilingual Mass of Thanksgiving for Canada’s newest saint.
Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast was the main celebrant. In his homily, he spoke of the qualities that make Brother André a saint.
We celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving for Brother André’s life and example of holiness with a Gospel [Matthew 11.25-30] that expresses the foundation of his simplicity. The passage begins with Jesus giving praise to the Father for revealing personal knowledge of God not to the wise and clever, but to the innocent and little ones. Yes, that is what the heavenly Father chose to do, to remind all—even the shepherds and Magi who are very much in our minds at this Christmas season—that the Kingdom is God’s gift to us and that we must receive it with the humility and simplicity of those who become “children” in the heavenly Kingdom by knowing intimately God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.
You can see a presentation of this special bilingual Thanksgiving Mass on Salt + Light Television this Thursday, January 13th, at 8pm ET or 9pm PT.
In his December 28, 2010 keynote address to the Catholic Christian Outreach “Rise Up” conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Montreal, Salt + Light Television CEO Father Thomas Rosica shared the story of St. André Bessette, CSC, Canada’s newest saint, with the national gathering of close to 600 university and college students, lay missionary and chaplaincy teams from across Canada. Catholic Christian Outreach [CCO], a lay movement dedicated to peer-to-peer campus ministry, and founded in 1988, is the largest youth and young adult movement in Canada. This year’s national conference had as its theme, “St. André Bessette: I am only a man, just like you.”
Juxtaposing the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman in September 2010 with the canonization of Blessed Brother André Bessette, CSC, one month later, Fr. Rosica said: “The “definite service” which Brother André was assigned, and which the Church, in canonizing him, insists is every bit as important and necessary as Cardinal Newman’s scholarship, could not have been simpler: Brother André’s service was to open the door and to teach us what charity in truth is all about.”
Rosica stated: “Andre’s climb to sainthood had nothing to do with taking part in holy battles, like Joan of Arc, the writing of great works of theology, like Thomas Aquinas or Cardinal Newman, or the creation of new religious orders, like Francis of Assisi or Dominic de Guzman. André’s story was about accepting the little he had and turning it into a holy act… Brother André grew up to become a true folk hero because, like other role models in a bygone era, he was seen to be close to the people, unburdened by pride.”
Rosica reminded the assembly that with little formal education, Brother André Bessette seems like an unlikely “educator in the faith”. Yet he saw countless opportunities in his ministry to teach people the faith, about charity, and about truth. 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 showed them how to pray by praying with them.” Rosica spoke of Brother André’s great trust in Divine Providence. “Despite the many obstacles he encountered in its construction, including a World War, somehow he knew in his heart that this shrine was God’s will… He always had complete confidence that, if he were really doing the Lord’s will, the Lord would bring it to fruition.”
See the text of Fr. Rosica’s address below.
Photo: Deborah Gyapong/Canadian Catholic News. The Archbishop of Montreal Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte welcomed close to 600 university students across Canada to Rise Up! 2010; with Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB; and CCO staffer Jackie O’Donnell, who organized the conference.
Brother André Bessette:
Montreal’s Miracle Man who was Caritas in Veritate
Keynote Address of Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
CCO 2010 Rise Up Conference – Montreal
December 28, 2010
Your Eminence Cardinal Turcotte,
Your Grace, Archbishop Prendergast,
It is an honor and privilege to begin the 2010 Rise Up Conference here in Montreal, Brother André’s own city. For the past nine months, we at Salt + Light Television have been immersed in the story of Brother André as we made the documentary “God’s Doorkeeper” (English) and “Portier de Dieu” (en français.) Brother André has been part of my own life since I was a 16 year-old high school student and visited St. Joseph’s Oratory for the first time. I have returned to Brother André many, many times over the past years. Let me tell you a little about Canada’s first native-born male saint.