St. André Bessette, left, a Holy Cross Brother and founder of St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, is depicted in a painting at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Montreal. At right, a painting portraying St. Kateri Tekakwitha is seen during a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated in honour of her at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, N.Y. At left, CNS photo/Bob Mullen, at right, CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

Pope Benedict canonized two Canadians

By  Terry O'Neill, Canadian Catholic News
  • January 13, 2023

During his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI beatified 870 people and canonized 45 saints, among them two notable Canadians, St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. André Bessette. 

Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Oct. 21, 2012, canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was North America’s first Indigenous saint, was one of the highlights of Pope Benedict’s papacy. 

St. Kateri, or “Lily of the Mohawks,” was born in what now is New York State. She was the daughter of a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother. She was baptized at age 21 and fled persecution to St. Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal, joining a community of Native American women who had also converted to Christianity.

She is remembered for her suffering, devout faith, courage and purity.

Pope Benedict said in his canonization-Mass homily that, while living at the St. Francis Xavier Mission, St. Kateri was “faithful to the traditions of her people, although renouncing their religious convictions until her death at the age of 24” on April 17, 1680.

“Leading a simple life, Kateri remained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass,” he said. “Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity.”

Pope Benedict said St. Kateri made a lasting impression “by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other.”

The Pope concluded by saying, “May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. St. Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America. May God bless the first nations.”

St. André Bessette (better known as Brother André) was one of six saints Pope Benedict proclaimed on Oct. 17, 2010. St. André, who lived from 1845 until 1937, was known for his devotional practices and his healing touch. A lay brother of the Congregation of Holy Cross, he was known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal.”

Canadians in Rome cheered as his name was announced among the six “shining examples” of holiness and the power of prayer. 

Born in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Que., the saint knew suffering and poverty very early in life. This led him to turn to God for prayer and an intense interior life. He served as the doorman of Notre Dame College, his religious community’s school in Montreal, for 40 years. His devotion to St. Joseph and his reputation for healing attracted thousands of people, and he began to be known as a miracle worker.

Pope Benedict said in his canonization-Mass homily that St. André “showed boundless charity and did everything to soothe the despair of those who confided in him.” Although he had little instruction, he “understood what was essential to the faith” and had an intense prayer life. 

“For him, to believe meant to submit freely and lovingly to Divine Will,” Pope Benedict said. “Everything existed through the mystery of Jesus, he lived the beatitude of the pure of heart, that of personal rectitude. It is thanks to this simplicity he showed many God.”

Pope Benedict said St. André “had the St. Joseph Oratory of Mont Royal built” and was its “faithful guardian” until his death in 1937. 

“There, he was the witness of many healings and conversions. ‘Do not try to have your trials taken away from you,’ he said, ‘rather, ask for the grace to endure them well.’ For him, everything spoke of God and His presence.”

Pope Benedict concluded by saying, “May we, following his example, search for God with simplicity to discover Him always present in the core of our lives. May the example of Brother André inspire Canadian Christian life.”

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