To speak of our Lord, the son of the blessed Virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value to us if we do not believe that he descended from the line of the ancestors set out in the Gospel.On the fourth Sunday of Advent this same Gospel (Matthew), it recounts how Joseph received the news of the impending birth of Jesus, of the circumstances of Mary’s virginal conception through the power of Holy Spirit. And then despite his initial resolve not to take part in this event we hear of the night in which the angel appeared to him in a dream where he receives the assurance, guidance and courage to take Mary as his wife into his home. Unlike Mary he is asleep and does not question the meaning of this dream or the message of the angel. Tradition has described this as the “faithful obedience” of Joseph. It is the silent, dutiful action of accepting and taking on the responsibility of caring for others. He was called to a unique role, to self-giving, sacrifice, to the promotion of human life, and to the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. This same testimony is also very much reflected in the life of Brother Andre of Montreal who was recently canonized by Pope Benedict XVI. He is popularly known as the Apostle of St. Joseph, for his life and witness to Christ and his faith in the intercession of St. Joseph to bring healing to many who sought him out. In fact it may be providential to reflect on the life and spirituality of the saintly door-keeper from the College Notre-Dame as a living example of the life and model of St. Joseph that we encounter especially in this Advent Season. Sanctification in the lives of the saints is a gift from God. However that is only one side of the story. The other part involves their own active detachment of all that would come between them and the love of God and others. It is often this active sanctification in a saint’s life and work which results in a deeper union with God and others through grace. This sanctification might be described as the “faithful obedience” which developed in the life of St. Joseph and Brother Andre despite the circumstances of their lives. As we have come to know Brother Andre faced many challenges in his younger years; poor health, the death of both parents at an early age, being raised in a foster family, a lack of education and thus a limited ability to read or write, and physical limitations which prevented him from having steady employment. What is most interesting is that these experiences did not result in his turning inward on himself with pity or of being angry and bitter, but instead through grace these experiences led him to prayer and to seek consolation in God. As one autobiographer stated “it led him to silent contemplation”. These trials brought him closer to God, to prayer, to a deeper faith and trust in God and to the conviction of his devotion to St. Joseph. You might say that this was the beginning of his active sanctification. In the second part of his life this sanctification came through the experience of his role in the Community of the Holy Cross as door-keeper at the College Notre-Dame. This ministry opened him up to the needs of others and developed within him an approach to people which was characterized as one of acceptance and compassion. He quietly went about his duties, accepting whatever responsibilities he was given in the community. He took care of the needs of the young students, his brothers in the community and all the people who came to the door seeking his prayers. As his notoriety grew and the number of people seeking assistance increased he remained humble. He always attributed the miracles of healing to St. Joseph and often described his role by saying “I am nothing but Saint Joseph’s little dog”. His devotion to St. Joseph also inspired him in practical ways to model Joseph’s role in promoting the human relationships that come from family, in imitation of the Holy Family. The closeness of God is revealed in the mystery of the Holy Family. In fact family relationships can reveal the Triune God and can become the incarnate meeting place of God and human persons. The relationships of the Holy Family are transformative of our humanity. And so Brother Andre who in his life lacked this human presence of family nevertheless developed a spirituality of life which promoted human relationships by reaching out to the needs of others which was transformative and healing. The spiritual reality and indwelling of the Holy Family today finds its meeting place not necessarily in Nazareth but in St. Joseph's Oratory which was inspired by Brother Andre. Each year the Advent season provides us with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the mystery of St. Joseph in the plan of salvation. It is also a specific grace for us in Canada to enter into such a reflection in light of the recent events of the canonization of Saint Brother Andre. It would be very important for us to acknowledge the presence of such unique individuals in our lives of faith this Christmas. To take note of those family and friends who witness to us of St. Joseph and Brother Andre through lives of faithful obedience, in humbling accepting the responsibilities of their vocation, in reaching out to the needs of others and in promoting human relationships which are transformative and which allow us all to experience the closeness of God. Most Rev. William McGrattan Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto - CNS photo/archives of St. Joseph's Oratory
The Word Made Flesh – Joseph: The Faithful and Wise Servant, a reflection by Bishop William McGrattan
December 8, 2012 by Leave a Comment
The seasons of Advent and Christmas seem to come so quickly and to be filled with many activities to say the least. In the everyday planning and preparations for family and community celebrations there are inevitably certain individuals who for whatever reason go unnoticed or unrecognized. They make important contributions. They are invaluable in their presence and support but are quiet and simply unassuming in their role. If you wish to recognize them and thank them they are often reluctant to accept such praise and notoriety among the many others who are present. It has often struck me that in the Advent and Christmas season this could quite easily describe the role of St. Joseph, if it were not for certain Gospel passages and the celebration of Feast dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph which falls on the Sunday immediately following Christmas. There is also a reference to Joseph at the beginning of the octave period, the eight days leading up to Christmas which the Church highlights through the praying of the O antiphons. It is in Matthew’s Gospel where he sets out the origin or genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother’s husband, Joseph. As Saint Leo the Great states:
December 6, 2012 by Leave a Comment
St. Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely. He is often overshadowed by the glory of Christ and the purity of Mary. But he, too, waited for God to speak to him and then responded with obedience. Luke and Matthew both mark Joseph’s descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge about him: he was "a righteous man" a "just man" (Matthew 1:18). Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been engaged, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary quietly according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. Joseph was also a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all of his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23). We are told that Joseph was a carpenter, (more likely a builder), a man who worked to provide for his family. Joseph wasn't a wealthy man, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb. Joseph revealed in his humanity the unique role of fathers to proclaim God's truth by word and deed. His paradoxical situation of "foster father to Jesus" draws attention to the truth about fatherhood, which is much more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children. Joseph was keenly aware, as every father should be, that he served as the representative of God the Father. The Gospel, as we know, has not kept any word from Joseph, who carries out his activity in silence. It is the style that characterizes his whole existence, both before finding himself before the mystery of God's action in his spouse, as well as when -- conscious of this mystery -- he is with Mary in the Nativity. On that holy night, in Bethlehem, with Mary and the Child, is Joseph, to whom the Heavenly Father entrusted the daily care of his Son on earth, a care carried out with humility and in silence. Joseph protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man. While no words or texts are attributed to him, we can be sure that Joseph pronounced two of the most important words that could ever be spoken when he named his son "Jesus" and called him "Emmanuel." When the child stayed behind in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched frantically with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). As Pope Benedict has taught us:
What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a "faithful and wise servant". The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.What great words for St. Joseph, because in Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a "just man" (Mt 1:19) because his existence is "adjusted" to the word of God. Joseph, the "foster-father" of the Lord reveals that fatherhood is more than a mere fact of biological generation. A man is a father most when he invests himself in the spiritual and moral formation of his children. Real fathers and real men are those who communicate paternal strength and compassion. They are men of reason in the midst of conflicting passions; men of conviction who always remain open to genuine dialogue about differences; men who ask nothing of others that they wouldn't risk or suffer themselves. Joseph is a chaste, faithful, hardworking, simple and just man. He reminds us that a family, a home, a community, and a parish are not built on power and possessions but goodness; not on riches and wealth, but on faith, fidelity, purity and mutual love. How could I speak of St. Joseph here in the Crèche Museum of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal without saying something about the dreamer and architect of this magnificent place, Brother André Bessette, the Canadian Church’s newest Saint. Brother André wanted Saint Joseph honored on this mountain. In 1890, he took a young student with him on one of his regular Thursday meditation walks. Taking the student up to the mountainside across the street from the College Notre Dame, he told him, “I have hidden a medal of Saint Joseph here. We will pray that he will arrange the purchase of this land for us.” For six years he persevered in prayer for that intention, and in 1896, his prayers were rewarded. The Holy Cross Congregation purchased the land and Brother André put a statue of Saint Joseph in a little cave on his chosen site. Placing a bowl in front of the statue, he planned on collecting alms from Saint Joseph’s petitioners, alms which would be used to build a chapel. What started out as a fifteen-by eighteen foot chapel in 1904 became a minor basilica in 1955, and was completed — interior and all — in 1966. In his lifetime, the shrine became big enough to warrant having a full-time guardian, a job to which Brother André was appointed in 1909. The piety that St. André had toward the Patron of the Universal Church was simple and childlike too:
When you invoke Saint Joseph, you don’t have to speak much. You know your Father in heaven knows what you need; well, so does His friend Saint Joseph. ... Tell him, ‘If you were in my place, Saint Joseph, what would you do? Well, pray for this in my behalf.’To the people who came to him with their troubles — and thousands did — the friend of Saint Joseph recommended the use of sacramentals, like Saint Joseph’s oil or a Saint Joseph medal. Most of all, he recommended persevering and confident prayer, usually prescribing a novena to his powerful benefactor. Because he learned how to pray with fervor, persistence and joy as a child and young religious, Brother André was able to urge people 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 wept along with his visitors as they recounted their sorrows. As he became known as a miracle worker, Brother André insisted, "I am nothing ... only a tool in the hands of Providence, a lowly instrument at the service of St. Joseph."
God our Father, You gave Brother André of Montreal, your humble servant, a great devotion to St. Joseph and a special commitment to the sick and the needy. May the example of his life and ministry inspire us to ever-greater works of charity, in generous service to our brothers and sisters in need. Give us the strength to surrender ourselves to Your will, and to be instruments of your loving mercy. Help us to follow Brother André's example of prayer and love, so that we too may come into your glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO Salt and Light Catholic Television Network Statue: CNS photo/Michael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin; Oratory: CNS Photo/Bob Mullen.
October 17, 2011 by Leave a Comment
Tonight on Perspectives: the Pope makes a special announcement, we recap the first day of the Canadian bishops' assembly and Montreal celebrates the first anniversary of the canonization of Saint Brother André.
October 12, 2011 by 1 Comment
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." Brother André died in Montreal on January 6, 1937 without seeing the completion of his dream. It is estimated that over a million people visited his body during the week following his death. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. On October 17, 2010, Brother André Bessette becomes Canada’s first male Canadian born saint. Through Brother André’s efforts, suffering and faith, from a little chapel on a hillside of Mount Royal came forth a great Basilica that now dominates Montreal’s mountain and Canada’s spiritual landscape. St. Joseph’s Oratory is the world’s largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph, built from a dream of Brother André Bessette. In this frail Brother of Holy Cross, God’s strength and might were revealed to the world. “Pauper, servus et umilis” are the Latin words written above his tomb at the Oratory in Montreal, meaning poor, servant and humble. They are also the words that are sung in the Panis Angelicus, the magnificent hymn about the Eucharist: poor, servant and humble. Who can say why was André chosen? In a beautiful circular letter to the Holy Cross family earlier this year, former Holy Cross Superior General Fr. Hugh Cleary wrote: “…perhaps André was chosen, like Mary and Joseph, because in the eyes of this world he was no one; he possessed nothing, nothing possessed him. …God possessed him giving him what he cared for most, giving him fulfillment to the deepest longing of his heart.” As an adult, Brother André stood just five feet tall. But he was a giant of faith and spirituality, whose shadow still hovers mightily over Montreal and Canada. He shows us what can be achieved through faith and love. In the humble porter’s own words, “It is with the smallest brushes that the artists paint the most beautiful pictures.” Christ is the door to the Father, who knocks at the doors of our hearts, our homes and our Church. The Church, and especially St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, is the door to salvation, the portal of the Kingdom of God. Brother André was the porter of that blessed place. The Lord worked through his doubts, infirmities, strengths, perseverance and human ingenuity to build a Church and build up the Church. Each day we enter and leave by so many doors without ever noticing. We all remember the stories of the days of our grandparents when "no one locked their doors." We now live in an age of deadbolts and alarm systems. Gone are the days we once knew when the doors of our homes would open regularly and easily to relatives, friends and neighbors. The doors of our homes and Churches don't seem to swing open quite so easily or as often as they used to. We must find ways to open the doors of our homes, our hearts and our Churches to all who need us. In his day, Brother André was Montreal’s Porter and he is now one of Heaven’s special gatekeepers. He teaches us the importance of greeting each person as the Lord, himself. Some will come to our doors rejoicing, and others in fear; some will come healed and others to seek that healing. St. André teaches us to be sensitive and welcoming to all who knock on our doors. May he continue to inspire us to open doors and build bridges to the people whom the Lord sends us each day, especially those who are sick, broken, poor and lonely. May St. André of Montreal make us instruments of healing, friendship, joy and peace in our day. St. André of Montreal, Pray for us! Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
October 10, 2011 by Leave a Comment
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) You can find more details about our broadcasts by going to S+L’s Brother André webpage. And don't forget: all of our programming can be watched on our live web stream. In the coming days, we welcome your thoughts and comments. Feel free to reach us via Facebook, Twitter and our Blog. 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!
January 25, 2011 by Leave a Comment
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.