MONTREAL — One new Canadian saint will be among those for whom Catholics will give thanks and to whom they will pray on All Saints Day this year.
Saint Brother André, who founded St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, October 17, and enthusiasm for his canonization here has not waned since.
The grand celebration for Saint Brother André on Canadian soil drew about 50,000 people from across Canada and the United States to the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, October 30.
The stadium, usually home to football games and trade shows of all types, was converted into the largest place of worship in the country for the day. The prayerful and joyful two-hour liturgy was packed with details significant to the life and mission of the humble Holy Cross brother.
EXUBERANT CROWD, MEANINGFUL LITURGY
The predominantly French celebration began with the ringing of the first bell of the original chapel that Brother André had built in honor of Saint Joseph.
Former Radio-Canada television host Winston McQuade acted as master of ceremony and introduced popular Quebec singer Chantal Pary, who sang Miracle de la Montagne
(Miracle on the Mountain), which she had written about Brother André for his beatification in 1982. The crowd applauded and cheered as she belted out the familiar refrain.
Pary was accompanied by renowned violinist Alexandre Da Costa and the wind orchestra of Collège Notre-Dame, the high school at which Brother André served as the doorkeeper for more than two decades.
The original chapel bell was rung again to indicate the start of the mass, and the assembly stood to join the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, a children’s choir that operates out of the oratory, for the entrance hymn.
The procession included 58 Canadian bishops, more than 100 priests, as well as nearly 200 young people. It closed with a new, smaller reliquary of Brother André—fragments of his heart—carried by some Holy Cross brothers and accompanied by members of his extended family. The concelebrants venerated the relics before being placed at the foot of the altar.
The archbishop of Montreal, Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte presided. The concelebrants included: Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, apostolic nuncio of Canada, and Bishops Martin Veillette and Pierre Morissette, presidents of the Quebec and Canadian bishops’ conferences respectively.
Four priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the congregation to which Br. André belonged, also concelebrated. They included: Frs. Richard Warner, superior general, Mario Lacahapelle, vice postulator for the cause of Brother André, Claude Grou, rector of the oratory, and Jean-Pierre Aumont, former oratory rector.
A COUNTRY BUILT BY HOLY MEN & WOMEN
During the entrance procession, the assembly prayed a litany of Canadian saints and blesseds, which included: Saints Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marguerite D’Youville and the Canadian Martyrs, and Blesseds François de Laval, Kateri Tekakwitha, Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin, Louis-Zéphirin Moreau, Catherine of St. Augustine, Marie-Anne Blondin, Marie de l’Incarnation, Frédéric Jansoone, Marie-Rose Durocher, Dina Bélanger and Marie-Léonie Paradis. It also included the French founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Blessed Basile Moreau.
The litany closed with Canada’s newest saint: Brother André. At the mention of his name, the people in the assembly applauded and waved white scarves in the air. Young people and people with disabilities—two groups that were dear to Brother André and central to his mission—were seated closest to the altar.
Prior to the opening prayer, Fr. Grou offered an official welcome, and the apostolic nuncio greeted the assembly on behalf of the pope and spoke of Brother André’s virtues.
A sister of the Holy Cross read the first reading (Pt 4:7-11) and Deacon Michel Desjardins, who leads marriage ministry at the oratory, proclaimed the Gospel (Mt 11:25-30).
CHEERS FOR 'HOMEGROWN' SAINT
Cardinal Turcotte followed with a homily that was both simple and poignant. The assembly responded by applauding exuberantly and waving their white scarves—eight times—in agreement and appreciation at different points during his address.
“The Church never canonizes someone solely for what they were or lived before, but for what they have to say and to demonstrate to women and men today,” the cardinal stated. “First of all, (Brother André) tells us and demonstrates to us that a life is beautiful and fruitful when it is put to the service of others.”
“This is not a small saint that has been canonized. But a great saint, a very great saint. This very great saint—Brother André—is homegrown,” he said fervently to extended applause.
“Pray for us,” he petitioned Saint Brother André on behalf of the assembly at the end of the homily. “Pray that we may become women and men of compassion, attentive to the needs of others, women and men who love God with a great love because they know they are very loved by Him.”
In addition to the bread and the wine, the offertory procession consisted of Brother André’s little black suitcase, which he would take on his many trips; large votive candles, representing the many candles lit by pilgrims at the oratory and other sanctuaries around the world; Saint Joseph’s Oil, which Brother André used to bring the sick and infirm hope, comfort and healing; flowers, representing the many artists who have brought beauty to the oratory, and; crutches, representing all those who were healed at the oratory through the intercession of Saint Joseph.
Following Communion, the assembly sang a hymn to Saint Joseph and the cardinal gave the assembly an apostolic blessing on behalf of the pope. The assembly sang a recessional hymn to Saint Brother André as the reliquary led the concelebrants and other clergy out of the stadium.
Among the dignitaries present at the mass were Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Quebec Lieutenant Governor Pierre Duchesne. The prime minister paid a short visit
to the oratory prior to the mass.
BR. ANDRÉ’S HOME PARISH HOSTS RELIQUARY
The reliquary presented at the mass has since been moved to Brother André’s home diocese of Saint-Hyacinthe. It will remain there for the next few months, first at the cathedral and then at the parish church of Mont Saint-Grégoire, where Brother André was baptized, for veneration by locals.
In January, the diocese, in conjunction with the oratory, will begin planning for a tour of the reliquary. The original, large relic of his heart remains at the oratory in Montreal.
As part of the ongoing local celebrations, a special mass was planned at the oratory today for All Saints Day to underline Brother André’s accession to the altar of saints.