Saints Around Us: Weekly Reflection

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”
~ Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14

Learn about one of the Church’s newest saints, St. Frère André Bessette on YouTube! See pictures of the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal, and listen to a favorite Canadian chanteuse, Celine Dion, singing Ave Maria, again, thanks to YouTube!

The word Halloween comes from a contraction of the words “All Hallows’ Eve”: the Eve of the Feast of All Saints. On November 1st, the Church celebrates all the holy women and men, that great cloud of witnesses, who are in the presence of God in heaven, and who spend their eternity interceding on our behalf before the throne of God. Some of those saints are the famous ones we know and pray to, like St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Catherine, and Mother Teresa, but saints are also all those women and men, who are only known to us, like our parents or grandparents or spouses or children, who lived holy, albeit ordinary lives, and who are in God’s presence, praying for us and for our needs.

Sometimes, we think of the saints as people who lived long ago in a world very different than ours. But recently, I was reminded that saints are for today too, in this moment of history.

When I was a little boy, every summer, I would travel with my grandparents to visit our cousins in French-speaking Canada. Part of our time would always be to visit the Canadian shrines, a kind of mini-pilgrimage. Often, we would make the trek to Montreal, and climb the great hill to see L’Oratoire St. Joseph, and to hear the story of “le bon Frère André,” a brother of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, a tiny man with a huge vision of a shrine on Mont Royal in Montreal to honor the good St. Joseph.

Frère André was for most of his life a porter, opening the door and welcoming guests into his religious community’s school. He listened to their stories and concerns, prayed with them, and healed their sick. The crutches and wheelchairs lining the aisles of the votive chapel of the Oratory are witness to his healing powers. When he died in 1937, more than a million people attended his funeral in Montreal. Part of the story for my family is how when Frère André visited Massachusetts, my great-grandmother met him and prayed with him. This October 17th, le bon Frère André was recognized as a saint by the Church, a fact that did not surprise those of us who knew his story.

His story captivates me. This tiny little man opened doors to God’s grace: he welcomed people, listened to their stories, prayed with them, assured them that God cared, loved them, and was with them. His faith was a simple pious faith, a radical trust in St. Joseph, a love of Jesus and Mary, a devotion to the Eucharist, and a close following of God’s will, even to the point of building the largest church in Canada on the top of a hill in Montreal!

He opened doors . . . and now is a saint.

God wants to open the doors of our hearts to God’s mercy and love and healing, and calls us to be porters today of God’s healing love, like Frère André.

St. André, priez pour nous . . . St. André, pray for us.

Now pray . . .