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Brother André: A Humble Healer

On Oct. 17, 2010, Brother André, a man devoted to St. Joseph, will be canonized.
In the 1880s, crowds of suffering people would gather outside Notre-Dame College in Côte-des-Neiges, Quebec. They were hoping a humble college doorman would cure them.

A failed baker and shoemaker, Brother André was both illiterate and frail. But he was sustained by faith. As a boy, his mother told him that St. Joseph was his friend in heaven. Brother André began praying for hours, praying so intensely that his pastor recommended him to religious life. In 1872, he joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross who sent him to Notre Dame. There, he performed odd jobs — carrying firewood, manning the doors — and visiting people who were sick.

During his visits, Brother André would carry oil taken from a lamp that burned before an altar of St. Joseph. As he anointed ailing people, he prayed to St. Joseph with them. He spoke with them, listened to them and laughed with them. And then people began to report cures.

A hemorrhaging woman had summoned Brother André, who performed his customary anointing and prayer. The bleeding stopped. A labourer's legs had been crushed. After Brother André's visit, the man could walk.

As Brother André's visitors increased, he was given an office. He kept no records of his visitors, but he received over 200 letters every day and over 30,000 people claimed he had cured them.

Throughout his life, Brother André refused all credit, insisting that the cures were due to St. Joseph and to God. In 1910, after Brother André's campaigning, a chapel devoted to St. Joseph was built in the mountain near Notre-Dame. And in 1924, construction began for St. Joseph's Oratory, a basilica near the chapel. Brother André was buried there in 1937, having lived to be 91. Currently, over two million people come to pray at the Oratory each year.

Even today, his successes are astonishing: a 2009 scientific study found his cures to be scientifically inexplicable. But his compassion can be explained by his past: he knew hardship as an orphaned child and uneducated youth. He faced his troubles with belief in a greater power and he shared his warmth and kindness with everyone.

By Ibrahim Ng

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