Category Archives: Religion

St. André of Montreal

Born August 9, 1845, he is credited with thousands of reported miraculous healings. So allow me to introduce you to André Bessette.

St. André of Montreal

St. André of Montreal (9 August 1845 – 6 January 1937)

Especially in Montreal, he is commonly known as Brother André (French: Frère André).   He was declared venerable in 1978 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982.  Pope Benedict XVI approved the decree of sainthood for Blessed André on February 19, 2010, with the formal canonization  taking place on October 17, 2010.

Born Alfred Bessette in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, Quebec, (a small town situated 40 kilometres (25 mi) southeast of Montreal.)  He was so frail when he was born that the curé baptized him “conditionally” the following day, completing an emergency ritual performed at his birth.

His father, Isaac Bessette, was a carpenter and lumberman, but tragically, he lost his life in an accident, crushed by a falling tree, when Alfred was only nine years old. His mother, Clothilde Foisy Bessette, found herself widowed at the age of forty with ten children in her care. She died of tuberculosis within three years, and Alfred found himself orphaned at the age of twelve.

Brother André had great confidence in Saint Joseph.  On his many visits to the sick in their homes, he would rub the sick person lightly with oil taken from a lamp burning in the college chapel and recommend them in prayer to St. Joseph.

An example of his devotion was witnessed when an epidemic broke out, and André volunteered to nurse. Not one person died. The trickle of sick people to his door became a flood. His superiors were uneasy; diocesan authorities were suspicious; doctors called him a quack. “I do not cure,” he said again and again. “St. Joseph cures.” In the end he needed four secretaries to handle the 80,000 letters he received each year.

Bessette died on January 6, 1937, at the age of 91. An estimated million people filed past his coffin.

His body lies in a tomb built below the Oratory’s Main Chapel, except for his heart, which is preserved in a reliquary in the same Oratory. The heart was stolen in March 1973, but was recovered in December 1974 with the help of famous criminal attorney, Frank Shoofey.

This, as you can imagine, is just a part of his life story.  To learn more about St. André, I would suggest St. André Bessette: Pope Benedict XVI’s Canonization Homily, and The Canadian Encyclopedia. If you want to read a book about his life, I would suggest Brother Andre: The Miracle Man of Mount Royal as well as Brother Andre of Saint Joseph’s Oratory.

Prayer of Oh, St. Joseph:

Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – Pray for me.

This prayer was found in the fifteenth year of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. Whoever shall read this prayer or hear it or keep it about themselves, shall never die a sudden death, or be drowned, not shall poison take effect of them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy; or shall be burned in any fire, or shall be overpowered in battle. Say for nine mornings for anything you may desire. It has never been known to fail, so be sure you really want what you ask.


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This week in Canadian History – January Week 3

Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Greece

Restored view of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Greece. Source: Wilhelm Lübke, Max Semrau: Grundriß der Kunstgeschichte. Paul Neff Verlag, Esslingen, 14th edition 1908.

Though not strictly a Canadian post, it does speak of the Olympics, in which Canadian athletes will compete for medals — there is the Canadian tentative link [grin]!

  “Nothing renders a man more renowned in his own lifeetime tthan what he can do with his hands and feet.”  – Homer, The Odyssey

The Olympics of today originated in Greece.  But how did it all start?

Well, I suppose we could go as far back as c. 2000 BC when colonists migrated to an area of Greece that would later be known as Olympia,  This is where an altar to Zeus was created ,  Then a surge in population around c. 900 – 800 BC, led to the spread of independent city-states and a wave of colonization.  Institutions began to rise up, designed to unite these scattered communities and reinforce Panhellenic, or all-Greek, heritage.  One of these institution was the Olympic Games.

The first Olympic Festival was held to woo the gods in 776 BC in Elis, Greece.  It was very simple – they only had a single sport:  a foot race.  The winner was a cook from Elis by the name of Coroebus.  Then in 476 BC, a big stadium was built at Olympia.  The first Olympic Games, under the Roman auspices, were held in 144 BC.  Unfortunately, there were several Roman civil wars, and the sanctuary were ransacked.

Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor, announced a peace throughout his empire in 27 BC; and so the Olympic Games thrived for the next three hundred years!

In AD 312, Constantine the Great proclaimed that Christianity was to be the official religion of the entire Roman Empire.  This marked the end of the Games.  As a matter of fact, all pagan festivals were banned by Emperor Theodosius I and the Games are officially banned in AD 394.  Between AD 426 and AD 522, Theodosius II destroyed Olympia;  then further damaged was done by first an earthquake, and later by floods that buried the area where the stadium once stood.

My next Olympic history post will concentrate on what is called “Modern Olympics.”  It’s more interesting, I’m sure you will agree … than you would have guessed!


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The Queen Said I Could Go

English: Jeanne Mance, part of Maisonneuve Mon...


While Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord are generally regarded as the outstanding heroines of Canada, there were many others whose bravery and devotion to duty equalled that of any man.

Among them was Jeanne Mance, who came to Canada with Maisonneuve.  She called on a Jesuit father in Paris and told him she had a divine call to serve in Canada.  After she had been questioned by the Queen, Anne of Austria, and other women of the court, money was provided for her to go with Maisonneuve and found a hospital, the Hôtel Dieu Hospital, which was opened on October 8, 1642.

As was expected, the Iroquois were bitterly opposed to the building of a settlement at Montreal, and they attacked mail and supply boats going between Montreal and Quebec.  It was not even safe to go outside the palisade to cut wood.  On one occasion three men were killed and three others were carried off and tortured to death.  Louis XIII sent out a ship, Notre Dame de Montréal, with supplies and a number of expert workmen to reinforce the settlement.  One of the workmen was  a leading engineer, Louis d’Ailleboust, who was accompanied by an unwilling wife.  Madame d’Ailleboust was soon so impressed by Jeanne Mance that she became one of her most faithful helpers.

D’Ailleboust  strengthened the defence of the settlement and then turned his attention to building the hospital, for which he had brought an extra gift of money.  The worst problem was lack of room inside the palisade, and so the hospital had to be built on the other side of the St. Pierre River, a small stream that flowed through Montreal.  D’Ailleboust chose high ground to protect the hospital from the spring floods.  The ground was easier to defend than the settlement itself, and Maisonneuve would have been the wiser if he had built there at the outset.

In 1653, the hospital was attacked by 200 Iroquois when Jeanne Mance was there alone with her patients.  A brave soldier, Lambert Close, went to the rescue with 16 men, fought the Iroquois for twelve hours, and managed to drive them away.  There were many such adventures ahead for Jeanne Mance.

If you would like to read more about Jeanne Mance, I suggest the Library and Archives Canada, and the Catholic Encyclopedia, and Gates of Hell, and finally, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.


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Like Looking Through the Wrong End of a Telescope!

English: Northwest Arm, Halifax Nova Scotia, 7...

English: Northwest Arm, Halifax Nova Scotia, 7am on my balcony on Quinpool Rd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When the Acadians were deported from Nova Scotia in 1755, “planters” from New England were brought in to take their place.  As a result, Nova Scotia opened the first Parliament in what is now Canada on October 2, 1758.

Governor Cornwallis,the builder of Halifax, had been given instructions to “summon and call general assemblies of the Freeholders and Planters according to the usage of the rest of our colonies  and plantations in America”, but had done nothing about it.  He was succeeded by a tough soldier, Colonel Lawrence, who might also have done nothing except that his hand was forced by the settlers from the American colonies.  They were accustomed to self-government and demanded it for Nova Scotia.

On  February 7, 1758, Governor Lawrence and his council passed resolutions providing for the election of sixteen members for the province at large, with four from Halifax and two from Lunenburg.  As soon as any community had a population of fifty, it could elect two members.  Nobody could complain about lack of representation when there was a Member of Parliament for every twenty-five people!

The first Parliament in Canada met in the Court House at the corner of Argyle and Buckingham Streets in Halifax on October 2, 1758.  It remained in session until April 11, 1759, with breaks for the usual holidays.  The members voted to serve without pay.  The total cost of the first session was £250, of which £100 went to the clerk.

The Church of England was formally established, but Protestant dissenters were allowed freedom of worship and conscience.  The same privileges were denied “members of the popish religion.”  the British criminal code was adopted, including penalties of the stocks pillory, flogging, branding, cutting off ears and hanging.  As late as 1816, a man was sentenced to have his ears cut off.  For instance, the use of profane language was a criminal offence.

Nova Scotia’s Parliament was conducted with great ceremony.  Charles Dickens, who visited Halifax in 1840, said it was like looking at the British Parliament through the wrong end of a telescope!

October 2, 1758, was commemorated by the Canadian Club of Halifax which erected a memorial tower along the picturesque Northwest Arm of the city.


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A Child Saved Because of Bishop’s Arthritis

François de Laval, first bishop of New France ...

François de Laval, first bishop of New France (1659-1684). François de Laval. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Visitors to Quebec City are always intrigued by the huge statue of Bishop Laval, standing with arms outstretched in welcome and blessing on top of the cliff.  He was officially named Bishop of Quebec on October 1, 1674, by Pope Clement X, although he had acted as such since June 1659.

François de Laval was a part of a great and wealthy family, but he gave his share of the family estate to his brother and joined an order that went through the country barefoot and lived on food supplied by the people.  He was in the thick of dispute from the beginning – when he was appointed there was a struggle for power between his order, the Jesuits, and the Sulpicians.  His appointment was a triumph for the Jesuits.

The Pope appointed Laval “vicar-apostolic” of Canada and not Bishop, because he would have come under the king if he had been bishop of Canada, while a vicar-apostolic came under the Pope.  So Laval was in the middle of another controversy between Church and State.

Laval insisted on absolute equality between the governor and himself.  On one occasion the governor and the bishop were present at a catechism in a school.  When the governor entered, resplendent in plumed hat, velvet doublet and jewelled sword, two boys stood up and saluted, which they did not do for Laval.  They were whipped the next morning.

However, on the other side of the ledger, when Laval was in his eighties he was suffering from arthritis and could not sleep.  One cold, winter night he hobbled out for a walk and found a small boy who had been turned out of his home.  The youngster was shivering, not being dressed for cold weather.  Laval took him back to his own quarters, gave him a warm bath, put him in his own bed and sat there watching him while he slept.  The next day he made arrangements for his permanent care.

During his career at Quebec, from 1659 to 1706, Laval was given crown lands that became very valuable.  He made arrangements secretly that when he died the revenue from them was to be used for education.  Laval University is one of the many memorials to his service.

For more details about Bishop Laval, I would recommend the Corporation du patrimoine et du tourisme religieux de Québec (English), and then the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, then the Val de l’Indre Brenne (here you will find many articles about different histories). You might want to extend your reading at the Francois de Laval where you will find a .pdf copy of a booklet about his life.


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Relations and Other Documents

Paul Le Jeune


On August 28, 1632, Paul Le Jeune sent his first report of mission work and Iroquois life to the Provincial of the Jesuit Order in France, Father Bartholémy Jacquinot.  It was an account of his trip to the New World.

The first of the annual Jesuit Relations, spanning 40 years in the life of New France.  He was Superior of the Jesuits in Québec from 1632 to 1639.

To read The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents 1610 to 1791, you can find them at Creighton University – there is a lot there, but worth the visit!


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The Men Will Behave Very Orderly …

English: Fort Lawrence - Nova Scotia by John H...

Fort Lawrence – Nova Scotia by John Hamilton 1755 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before the Acadians were expelled from Nova Scotia in 1755, they were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.   There might be some argument about which side was which!  Some of the Acadians lived in  Cape Breton and what is now New Brunswick, belonging to France while the others lived in the rest of Nova Scotia, which was British.

The French governor at Quebec issued a proclamation commanding all Acadians to take an oath of allegiance to the King, and enrol in the French militia.  Britain made similar demands on the 9,000 Acadians in her territory, although not requiring them to join the militia.

There was a French fort at Beauséjour (which had been preserved as a historic site), while the British had Fort Lawrence, not far away.  Governor Vaudreuil at Quebec sent instructions to Governor Vergor at Beauséjour to devise a plan to attack against Fort Lawrence.

The British had a spy in Beauséjour, who revealed the plan to Governor Lawrence of Nova Scotia and who also got in touch with Governor Shirley in Massachusetts.   Shirley, with his usual enthusiasm, raised a force of 2,000 men.  When they embarked to sail to Nova Scotia they were instructed: “The men will behave very orderly on the Sabbath Day, and either stay on board their transports, or else go to church, and not stroll up and down the streets.”

The force landed at Fort Lawrence on June 4, 1755.  Governor Vergor had his men set all the houses on fire between Fort Lawrence and Beauséjour, while a famous Roman catholic priest, Father Le Loutre, had his Acadians working on the fortifications.  In the meantime, Vergor had sent an urgent message to Louisburg for help, but learned on June 14 that none would be coming.  The British had fired their guns at Beauséjour for several days when a shell fell through a roof and killed three officers.  That was enough for Vergor and he surrendered the fort on June 16.

As the New England troops could only be kept for one year, and the French were expected to try to recapture Nova Scotia, it was decided to expel the Acadians.  Their exodus took place later in the year.

Want to read more about Governor Vergor and the surrender of Beauséjour? You can begin with Nova Scotia’s Electric Scrapbook, and then the History of Nova Scotia. To read even more, there’s Tantramar History Sites and the Acadian-Cajun Geniealogy & History, and then, for a few very interesting anecdotes, you have to visit 1775: L’Histoire. All good places to start.


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