February 19, 2010

A Montreal Saint

The New Orleans Saints have not recruited a new player from Montreal. But, the Pope has made a Montrealer a, dare we say, real Saint?  Brother Andre, a significant figure in the Roman Catholic French community of Montreal, was one of five new Saints announced by the Vatican today. The "vetting" process has taken almost 100. John McCain probably wishes his people had done that kind of vetting.

Brother Andre (Alfred Bessette) was responsible for the creation of St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. What started as a small, wood chapel in the very early 1900s has grown to a magnificent building today. Brother Andre, who died in 1937, came from humble beginnings, was illiterate and had the reputation of being a miracle worker. He was a lay brother. To this day it is not uncommon to find crutches, wheelchairs and other medical equipment placed outside the church. When he died in 1937 it was estimated that over one million devout Montrealers stood in line to pay their respects.

Photos of St. Joseph's are common in most Montreal tourism materials. Kish had just visited the Oratory on Wednesday and had a chance to see the display of Brother Andre's heart in a "box." Yes, the real heart is preserved and on display. It's behind glass and roped off since sometime in the mid 1970s it was stolen and then mysteriously returned a couple of years later. Kish was a little freaked out to even take a photo, which doesn't happen that often.

Outside his tomb is a large room full of lit candles which is not that uncommon in Catholic churches, especially in Europe. What was unusual was the sheer number of candles. Hundreds of them, so many that when you walked in the room you could feel the heat. It was overwhelming and clearly people come to light candles for those who are sick.

St. Joseph's Oratory is really a beautiful building and a nice tribute to the man who has finally become a saint. The official canonization and Montreal festivities will take place in October. It is cool to be living here in Montreal when a Saint is named. We're not sure if we'll try and go to any of the events. You never know, miracles do happen.

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