André Bessette was born in 1845 to a working-class family in Quebec. Orphaned at the age of twelve and lacking any trade or education, he was forced to support himself with various manual occupations. In time his intense spirituality—particularly his devotion to St. Joseph—attracted the attention of his pastor, who recommended that he enter the Holy Cross Order as a lay brother (and sent a letter to the superior, reading, “I am sending you a saint”). Upon his acceptance, Bessette was assigned the post of doorman at Notre Dame College near Montreal. (He liked to joke that on completing his novitiate he was shown the door and remained there for forty years.)
Despite his lowly station, Brother André’s reputation for holiness began to grow. He spent much of his spare time visiting the sick and was credited with many healing miracles (which he was always quick to credit to St. Joseph and the mercy of God). Eventually, huge numbers flocked to the school for his blessing, and he required a team of secretaries to answer the eighty thousand letters he received each year. Despite fragile health in his youth, he lived to the age of ninety-one. After his death on January 6, 1937, a million people filed by his coffin.
Brother André was beatified in 1982 and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
“My only ambition is to serve God in the most humble tasks.”
—St. André Bessette