An ordinary Brother of Holy Cross, Saint André Bessette spent most of his life answering the door for his religious community. Through his extraordinary devotion to Saint Joseph and his prayers for those in need, thousands of people were miraculously healed and helped. Inspired by God to build the Oratory of Saint Joseph, Brother André Bessette is beloved in his native Canada and beyond. Saint André Bessette was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2010.
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Saint André Bessette
Saint André Bessette
Miracles in Montreal
Written by Patricia Edward Jablonski, FSP
Illustrated by Barbara Kiwak
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jablonski, Patricia E.
Saint André Bessette: miracles in Montreal / written by Patricia Edward Jablonski; illustrated by Barbara Kiwak.
p. cm. — (Encounter the saints series)
ISBN-10 Print: 0–8198-7140–0
ISBN-10 eBook: 0–8198-7148–6
ISBN-13 eBook: 978–0-8198–7148-0
1. André, Brother, Saint, 1845–1937—Juvenile literature. 2. Christian saints—Canada—Biography—Juvenile literature. I. Kiwak, Barbara. II. Title.
Cover art/Illustrated by Barbara Kiwak
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
“P” and PAULINE are registered trademarks of the Daughters of Saint Paul.
Copyright © 2010, Daughters of Saint Paul
Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130–3491
Printed in the U.S.A.
STAB VSAUSAPEOILL09–10J10-06820 7140–0
Pauline Books & Media is the publishing house of the Daughters of Saint Paul, an international congregation of women religious serving the Church with the communications media.
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Encounter the Saints Series
Blesseds Jacinta and Francisco Marto
Shepherds of Fatima
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
Journey to the Summit
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Missionary of Charity
Journeys with Mary
Apparitions of Our Lady
Saint Anthony of Padua
Fire and Light
Saint Bakhita of Sudan
Saint Bernadette Soubirous
And Our Lady of Lourdes
Saint Clare of Assisi
A Light for the World
Saint Damien of Molokai
Hero of Hawaii
Saint Edith Stein
Blessed by the Cross
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Daughter of America
Saint Faustina Kowalska
Messenger of Mercy
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Francis of Assisi
Saint Ignatius of Loyola
For the Greater Glory of God
Saint Isaac Jogues
With Burning Heart
Saint Joan of Arc
Saint John Vianney
A Priest for All People
Saint Juan Diego
And Our Lady of Guadalupe
Saint Katharine Drexel
The Total Gift
Saint Martin de Porres
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
The Thirteenth Apostle
Saint Pio of Pietrelcina
Rich in Love
Saint Teresa of Avila
Joyful in the Lord
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
The Way of Love
1. Smiles and Tears
3. Home at Last
4. An Act of Daring
5. A Shrine is Born
6. The Miracles Begin
8. Saint Joseph Gets His Wish
9. A Dream Takes Shape
10. Bigger and Better
11. The Blind Shall See
12. More Miracles
13. Speedy Recoveries
14. Needed: One Roof
15. The Final Journey
16. Still at Work
Smiles and Tears
Isaac Bessette waited impatiently. When would the midwife let him in? A baby’s feeble cry finally broke the silence. Then, “Isaac … where’s Isaac?” The nervous father hurried to his wife’s bedside. “I’m here, Clothilde,” he softly reassured her. “Everything is all right. Rest now.”
But things were far from right. The midwife cradled a whimpering baby boy in her arms. She fixed her gaze on the tiny form. “He seems very ill, Clothilde,” she murmured. “Shall I baptize him for you? If he lives, you can take him to the priest. He will do what can’t be done now in an emergency.”
“Yes, please! Do it right away,” the exhausted mother cried. “If my child is not to stay with us, I pray that he will go straight back to God. At least he will have been baptized.”
That night seemed endless. Clothilde and Isaac worriedly hovered over their baby. They watched and prayed. By the next day, August 10, 1845, the crisis had passed. Joy filled the one-room cabin on the outskirts of the Canadian village of Saint-Grégoire.
“It’s time to bring baby Alfred into town,” Isaac happily notified his brother Edouard and sister-in-law Josephine. They would be the godparents. Because there was no permanent church in Saint-Grégoire, the ceremony was held in a building that served as a schoolhouse and meeting hall. That was where the local pastor offered Mass on a portable altar every Sunday. Father Sylvestre completed the Rite of Baptism. He blessed the baby, anointed him with chrism, and wrote his name in the baptismal record book. Alfred Bessette was now not only a child of God, but also an official member of the Catholic Church.
Little Alfred was born with a serious stomach problem. It bothered him all his life. Even though foods such as white bread, fruits, vegetables, and meat were expensive, Mr. and Mrs. Bessette made sure that Alfred always had whatever he needed.
Isaac Bessette was a hard worker, but the times were not the best. All of the Bessette children did what they could to help earn money. Isaac, a carpenter by trade, often took his older sons with him to cut trees from the nearby forest for timber. When he was old enough, Alfred would beg, “Papa, can’t I come with you today?” But his father’s answer was always the same. “Your mother needs you at home. You’re the man of the house while your brothers and I are away.” It was a kind way of saying that Alfred was too frail and small to help with the lumbering work.
Two more children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Bessette after Alfred. That brought the total to ten. Young Alfred was very happy to be surrounded by such a large and loving family. After all, it was fun to have so many brothers and sisters to play with! The Bessette family lived a simple but joyful life. They loved to sing together, especially in the evenings when the day’s work was done. Every night, the family also prayed the Rosary together. Alfred would sit by his mother’s side and finger her beads along with her. “My mother was always smiling,” he would remember years later. “She had such a lovely smile.” Alfred also recalled his mother’s devotion to the saints. “She’s the one who gave me my devotion to Saint Joseph.”
When Alfred was ten, an unexpected tragedy changed his family’s life forever. One blustery day in February 1855, Mr. Bessette and his older boys went out to cut down some trees. Not long after they left, there was a frantic knock at the door. Mrs. Bessette opened it to find a solemn-faced neighbor. The man nervously wrung his cap in his hands. “Clothilde,” he began, “I have some very bad news … There’s been a terrible accident …”
“An accident? Where? How? No—no it can’t be my Isaac!” Mrs. Bessette wailed.
“A tree fell on him, Clothilde,” the neighbor quietly explained. “The men are bringing him home now. Your sons are with them. You’d better call the doctor. I’ll … I’ll be praying for you all.”
The doctor arrived soon after Isaac was carried in on a makeshift stretcher. “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Bessette,” he said after examining Isaac. “There is nothing I can do for him. It will be best to send for the priest …”
The pastor came and administered the last sacraments. By the next day, Isaac Bessette had gone to meet God.
“Clothilde, there’s been a terrible accident …”
Clothilde tried her best to provide for her children. But the effort proved to be greater than her strength. She soon came down with tuberculosis of the lungs—a serious disease. Clothilde had to send her children to live with friends and relatives who could care for them. She kept only Alfred with her. The two of them had always had a special relationship, and he needed more care because of his poor health. Alfred and his mother moved to the town of Saint-Césaire. There they lived with Marie-Rosalie, Clothilde’s sister, who was married to Timothée Nadeau.
Clothilde worried that Alfred was not getting an education. He could never attend classes in the village school for more than a week without getting sick. This left him far behind the other children his age. Between Alfred’s physical weakness and his mother’s illness, little could be done. So at the age of twelve, he still couldn’t read or write.
Clothilde Bessette fought her dreaded disease courageously for two years. But in those days, there were no antibiotics to treat people with tuberculosis. In the late fall of 1857, Clothilde died. She was just forty-three years old.
Alfred was heartbroken. Now he was an orphan. What should I do, Lord? he prayed. What’s going to happen to me?
Mr. Nadeau, Alfred’s uncle, expected the young boy to do his share of work around the house and farm as his own five children did. But it soon became clear that Alfred was simply too weak to do even minimal farm work. “Rosalie, I’ve heard the town cobbler needs some help,” Mr. Nadeau casually mentioned one evening. His wife looked up from her knitting. “Do you think Alfred could do that type of work?” she asked.
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