A humble servant

  • October 22, 2010
Saint Andre BessetteDuring the canonization Mass in Rome of Canada’s new saint, Pope Benedict XVI prayed that the example of Brother André would become an inspiration for Canadian Christian life.

We suspect St. André Bessette would be pleased with that. Shy, faithful, kind, he was never comfortable with the fame attached to his reputation as Montreal’s miracle man. His advice to the sick, poor and lonely, who arrived by the thousands to experience his gentle way, was always to turn to God and, of course, to St. Joseph. It was only there, he said, that comfort would be found.

Modern society is diminished by the cult of celebrity. People too often become slavish followers of star athletes, actors, musicians, even politicians. With sad regularity, our headline-makers offer little that is morally redeeming. Yet their popularity persists.

Saints are the stars of the Church but, unlike the celebrities profiled in People magazine, they are models of exemplary Christian life. Through them, we feel God’s presence and better understand our Christian calling. They are role models, sources of inspiration, in the truest sense. Canada now has its own modern role model, St. André Bessette, a child borne of illness and poverty who came to embody charity, humility, honesty, generosity and, above all, sanctity and devotion.

“He showed boundless charity and did everything possible to soothe the despair of those who confided in him,” praised Pope Benedict XVI at St. Andre’s canonization. “For him, to believe meant to submit freely and lovingly to Divine will.”

St. André’s sainthood comes at a time when the Canadian Church needs to be inspired. From declining vocations, decreasing Sunday attendance and the tragedy of scandal, the Church has been suffering. In Quebec, St. André’s home province, secularization has decimated the faith to the extent that some historic churches have been turned into movie theatres or condos.

But for the several days culminating in the Oct. 17 canonization, the negative news was replaced by the inspiring story of this remarkable man. Even the secular media found space on its front pages for the incredible saga of a saint whose sole ambition was to unselfishly serve God and bring comfort to his fellow man.

Almost unanimously, the media recorded this as a story of joy and hope. For the better part of a week, Canadians were given cause to reflect on all that is good and holy in the Church. And, behind the headlines, hopefully people realized that the remarkable example of one man’s saintly life is already  reflected daily in countless clergy, religious and lay people. No miracle workers, perhaps, but these faithful people embody St. André’s virtue of selfless Christian service.

As the Pope reminds us, we are all called to serve and the example of St. André Bessette is an inspiration for that calling.

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