Brother André Bessette, C.S.C., the first canonized saint of the Congregation of Holy Cross, died on January 6, 1937. We traditionally celebrate saints on the date of their birth into eternal life, but along with the Church, we in Holy Cross now celebrate St. André on January 7.
His Feast Day was moved to January 7 because January 6 is the twelfth day of Christmas, the day we traditionally celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the wise men who followed the star to give homage to the newborn Christ Child. They came bearing him gifts: gold, symbolizing the power and wealth of a king; frankincense, which gives tribute to what is holy; and myrrh, an ointment to anoint the sick and the dying.
What a joy it is for Holy Cross to celebrate Br. André, the founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Quebec, along side the special feast of Epiphany! Br. André’s appearance and demeanor were far from regal, yet in his humility and loving compassion for the sick, he commanded of those who had the privilege of meeting him the respect and honor fit for a king.
Similar to the Magi, Br. André in his own faith journey presented to the Lord his own special gifts. Although his religious poverty prevented him from giving gold, he generously gave of his own personal treasure of profound faith and healing to the thousands who came to see him. In many ways his frankincense was the dream and construction of the oratory itself, a striking memorial honoring the holiness of his beloved St. Joseph. And finally, his myrrh was the holy oil he used in his ministry to anoint gently the sick and infirm.
Today high on top of the magnificent, illuminated dome of St. Joseph’s Oratory, a lit cross shines brightly, much like the star of Bethlehem, guiding millions of pilgrims in their desire to pay homage to our Lord and King as well as to a simple, holy man whose gifts brought hope and healing to many. We look to the Cross and we look to Br. André to help us find our Savior, so that we, too, may bring our diverse gifts to him. In our giving, we just may find that we ourselves have received a far greater gift—that special gift of hope that only he can give.
This reflection by Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., for the Feast of St. André Bessette was adapted from the book The Gift of Hope: Advent and Christmas Reflections in the Holy Cross Tradition from Ave Maria Press. Br. Bednarczyk currently serves as the Vicar General and First Assistant of the Congregation.