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Brother Andre

Blessed Brother André (Frère André) (1845 - January 6, 1937) was a Canadian religious figure, credited with thousands of miraculous healings.

Born in Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, a small town situated 40 kilometers east of Montreal, he was called Alfred Bessette. His family was poor like most of the French Canadian peasants of that time. His father was a lumberman and his mother saw to the education of her ten children. Alfred was orphaned at age twelve. He tried different trades, but none of these were promising for his future.

When Alfred was twenty years old, he joined many Canadians who were emigrating to the United States to work in the mills of New England. When, in 1867, the new Canadian Confederation was formed, he returned to his native country.

He was given the task of doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Côte-des-Neiges, Quebec. He fulfilled this function for some 40 years while at the same time doing innumerable odd jobs for the community.

The Pastor of his parish, Fr. André Provençal, had been noticing the devotion and the generosity of the young man. He decided to present Alfred to the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal. Regardless of his frail health and his limited schooling, in 1870, Alfred was accepted and became known as Brother André.

His great confidence in Saint Joseph inspired him to recommend this devotion to all those who were afflicted in various ways. Many claimed that they were cured and were grateful that their prayers had been heard. Because he wanted Saint Joseph to be honored, in 1904, Brother André began the construction of a small chapel on the side of Mount Royal, facing the College.

The sick and the infirm cried out that they had been cured. The reputation of Brother André grew and soon he was known as the miracle-worker of Mount Royal. He had to face the attacks and the criticism of his numerous adversaries. However, popular acclaim, the support of the diocesan Church and the evidence of cures which could not be explained overcame the doubts of his detractors.

In 1924 construction of the Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal Oratory began on the side of the mountain, near Brother André's chapel. The funding for what would become the largest church outside of Rome came from Brother André's supporters from around the world.

When he died a million people filed before his coffin. His heart is preserved in a monstrance in the oratory. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 23, 1982.