Brother André never spoke of ecstasies, visions or inner locutions; he called them dreams. Although he would later call this time in a foreign country, away from all he knew and loved, his time in exile, he was not alone; his Saint Joseph was with him. Alfred had a dream that he was working in a field. In his dream he leaned tiredly on a rake, and asked Saint Joseph: “Where shall I die?” Before him he saw a huge stone building unlike anything he had ever seen. He never forgot this dream; years later, when he entered Notre Dame College in Montreal, he recognized it as the building in his dream. Although he did not die there, he would spend forty years of his life in this college as an instrument of God.
When he was twenty-three years old, Alfred returned to his beloved Canada and settled down with his family. Or so he thought. Here, we see the Lord intervening powerfully in the life of Alfred Bessette, our future Brother André. The Lord put another Saint-maker in his path, his parish priest, Father Provençal, whom everyone called a Saint. From the time he was a little boy, Alfred loved to assist at Mass. It was obvious the boy had a great devotion to the Eucharist and to the Mass. He would stay in the church long after Mass was over to pray. He wanted to remain in the presence of God Whom he could feel in the church, especially after having received Communion.
Now, years later, Alfred had returned and Father Provençal saw in the young man the little boy who had served him so zealously, so faithfully; he asked him if he had ever thought of a vocation as a religious! [Do we ever ask that question? We wonder how many young people have a vocation in their heart, and only need someone to light that flame with a spark of a suggestion like: “Have you ever thought of becoming a religious?” How many young people need that affirmation of what might have been burning in their hearts from childhood? How many potential vocations are lost because no one ever asked the question?] When Alfred protested that he had nothing to offer to religious life, as he could not read or write, Father spoke of him becoming a brother of the Holy Cross, a Congregation that had come to his parish. He told him that this Order had brothers who served the Community in ways not requiring any kind of formal education. Alfred prayed and realized his searching, his longing had been for the Lord and His Will, not for the world’s empty rewards.
After praying for two years, Alfred applied to the Brothers of Holy Cross. Now they were reluctant to accept him, not so much due to his lack of education, but because he was so frail and sickly, they were afraid he would be a burden on their Community. But the Novice Director, who had interviewed the young Alfred, was touched by the Lord. He saw in André what Our Lord Jesus could use, humility and a great love of Jesus and the Church. The Novice Director stepped in; he said, if Alfred were to become so incapacitated that he was unable to work, he would always be able to pray! He believed Alfred would be a powerful prayer warrior. He was accepted!
Father Provençal wrote to the Community of the Brothers of the Holy Cross: “I am sending you a Saint.” It was 1870, the year that Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph Patron of the Roman Catholic Church. Little did Alfred or the brother who admitted him realize that he would be an instrument to bring millions to a deeper devotion to Saint Joseph.
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