The Major Reliquary of St. Brother André Bessette will be on tour in the Diocese of Hamilton this month. Photo courtesy Congregation of the Holy Cross

Brother André ’tangible’ in today’s world

  • May 11, 2024

The Major Reliquary of St. Brother André Bessette will be touring the Diocese of Hamilton throughout May. 

A sacred yet physical reminder of one of the most prominent men in Canadian Catholicism, the Major Reliquary of the Quebec-born St. Brother André has just returned from a tour of various parishes in Connecticut last month.

The tour’s first scheduled stop is at Christ the King Cathedral Basilica in Hamilton from May 17-18 and will conclude with a visit to Holy Family Parish in Hanover May 24. 

Comprised of a fragment of St. Brother André’s heart, a medallion and a stone from Montreal’s St. Joseph Oratory, the Major Reliquary — since its introduction at the Olympic Stadium of Montreal after his canonization 14 years ago — has served as a visible reminder of the man who served Christ honourably throughout his 91 years. 

The relic’s tour holds profound importance when examining the life of St. Brother Andé, who was born in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Que., in 1845. 

“When André returned to Canada in his 20s, he wanted to become a religious brother. He approached the Congregation of Holy Cross and for 39 years he was a doorman (at Collége Notre-Dame),” said Fr. Jomon Kalladanthiyil, ambassador of the relic of St. André Bessette. “It was there where he was constantly praying through the intercession of St. Joseph for students, parents and teachers. He started asking for St. Joseph’s prayers of healing for people who shared their struggles with him and they started to be miraculously healed.”

St. Brother André is credited with curing the ailments of thousands and was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2010. 

“He is a saint of our time, and I think the Church is in a state right now where they need these saints of our time,” said Marc Cantin, who along with his wife Pauline are stewards of the reliquary. “We need someone tangible, someone who didn’t live 500-600 years ago, but someone that today’s grandparents knew.” 

“He was someone who touched the hearts and minds of millions of people while he was alive, and so grandparents and great-grandparents have told the story of Brother André to their children and grandchildren,” Kalladanthiyil said. “Now in many places when I visit with the relic of St. André,  they come to the church and they want to be with and pray with his relic. He continues to touch the hearts and minds of people even now.”

Those who take in the tour will hear a short talk about St. Brother André and his life along with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament before Mass is celebrated. Upon receiving the Eucharist, visitors can then come forward to touch, venerate and pray in front of the Major Reliquary before being anointed with the oil of St. Joseph. 

The upcoming holy events are conducted by Kalladanthiyil, along with the Cantins from London, Ont., and a rotating group of brothers and priests from the Congregation of Holy Cross.

While St. Brother André passed away more than 85 years ago, his relics continue to provide a divine connection to all those who encounter them, an experience that Kalladanthiyil says he has witnessed firsthand for both churchgoers and non-believers. 

“It is an amazing and spiritually uplifting experience for people to receive graces and blessings from God through the intercession of St. André Bessette and St. Joseph,” he said. “I see a lot of conversions of heart and mind and I see people go through that spiritual upliftment. Some people who do not go to the church come back and discover the figure of St. André and they really want to be with Jesus forever.” 

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