MONTREAL — The beauty of icons is in their ability to allow people to encounter the sacred and to apprehend what is essential to their lives. Following a long-standing Church tradition to write icons of the saints, two official icons of Canada's newest saint were written.
The new icons of Brother André, written by Quebec iconographer Élisabeth Bergeron, capture the essential aspects of his life and allow the viewer to contemplate the love that animated his vocation. Russian master iconographer Alexandre Sobolev drew the image.
Bergeron hails from the Charlevoix region but currently resides on the South Shore of Montreal. She presented one of the icons to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome during the Wednesday general audience following the canonization.
The second icon was blessed during a mass at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal, October 17. It will be processed to the original chapel that Br. André built for Saint Joseph, following the 7:30 p.m. mass at the oratory October 31, where it will be permanently installed.
The icon emphasizes Brother André's healing ministry and his love and dedication to Jesus. It depicts him holding a small jar of St. Joseph's Oil, which he would use with the sick and infirm, and a piece of parchment on which is written one of his famous sayings: "The door to heaven is the heart of Jesus. The key to this door is prayer and love."
The icon also captures his strong devotion to both the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, on whom he relied throughout his vocation; they are depicted on either side of him.
The only difference between the two icons is the way in which the new saint is identified. The icon presented to the pope bears the name by which the saint is officially identified throughout the universal Church: Saint André Bessette.
The icon that will be installed at the oratory has the name by which the saint will be known in his native country: Saint Brother André, the more familiar local appellation for the humble Holy Cross brother.
A dentist by profession, Bergeron has been learning to write icons since 2006. She does not know how many hours it took her to complete the Brother André icons.
"I don't count the hours," she said. "For me, writing an icon is a form of prayer of thanksgiving for all God has given me."