Address of the Most Reverend Pierre Morissette, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, during the Reception at the Pontifical Canadian College, Rome, following the Canonization of Saint Brother André, 17 October 2010
Your Eminences and dear brother Bishops,
Your Honour Mr. Pierre Duchesne, Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, and Mme Ginette Lamoureux,
Your Honour Mr. Noël Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate of Canada, and Mrs. Kinsella,
Honourable Ministers of the Government of Canada and of the Government of Quebec,
Members of the Parliament of Canada – the Senate and the House of Commons,
Members of the National Assembly of Quebec,
Your Worship Mr. Gérald Tremblay, Mayor of Montreal, and Mme Tailleur,
Your Excellency Mme Anne Leahy, Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See,
Very Reverend Father Richard Warner, General Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Cross,
Brothers and sisters from the religious family of the Holy Cross,
Ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of all the Bishops of Canada, welcome to this reception.
This is a moment of great joy and pride for all the Church, particularly in Quebec and throughout Canada. Our own Brother André has today been solemnly declared a saint.
Thank you for accepting the invitation to our celebration. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Assembly of Québec Catholic Bishops have collaborated in organizing this reception to mark this historic moment. We are most happy that you are here with us. Our thanks to the Pontifical Canadian College, its staff, its students and its Rector, Father Éric Sylvestre, P.S.S., for the tremendous organizational work which has been involved. We are grateful also to Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., of the Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation, who has given his wise counsel for our media relations. I am equally happy to acknowledge the work of the Canadian Embassy to the Holy See in helping the many pilgrims who have come to Rome for this celebration. My deep gratitude to the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec, and the City of Montreal for their interest in this historic moment, and for the presence of their official representatives among us this afternoon. I especially wish to offer my respects to Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal, and to all the men and women religious present who are members of the Holy Cross family. As you will understand, for these persons particularly this day holds a very special meaning. It is a member of the Montreal diocesan family and a Holy Cross Brother who has just been recognized as a saint.
It is a moment of great joy for me to be here with you. As a Quebecois, I personally saw and experienced the deep devotion that so many around me had to Brother André. As President of the Canadian Episcopal Conference, I have also heard from my brother Bishops how this humble, uneducated man has touched the lives of so many people, not only in Montreal and in Quebec, but in villages and towns far, far away from Mont-Royal and Saint Joseph’s Oratory.
Holiness transforms. Through his Christian faith, Brother André was transformed. Through his faith and service, he transformed the lives of others. In his own lifetime, thousands claimed that they had experienced healing because of his faith. An estimated one million people filed past his coffin when he died in 1937. Although the Oratory justly honours Saint Joseph – as Brother André had insisted – the fact is that for the millions of pilgrims who visit there annually, it so often has been the transforming story and presence of Brother André that touched their hearts.
Brother André gained popular attention because he remained one of the ordinary men and women of his day. Perhaps that is the greatest lesson that he offers us today – a strong reminder of the transforming faith of ordinary men and women. For this reason, over the coming days the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will celebrate the canonization of Saint Brother André with the release of a pastoral letter on popular devotion and piety by our Commission for Doctrine.
In 1993, Mr. Jacques Demers, now Senator Demers, made his famous pilgrimage to Saint Joseph’s Oratory in the hope that his team, the Montreal Canadiens, would win the Stanley Cup. At the time, it was
much commented on by the media, although Mr. Demers was only one among the millions of men and women to visit the Oratory over the many years. His intention was to bring before Our Lord, through the intercession of Brother André and Saint Joseph, his own particular hope and concern. What was the response? I would certainly not dare to affirm that it was Saint Joseph and Brother André who made it possible for the Canadiens that year to win the Stanley Cup…. That would too easy to imitate! But it does illustrate how much Brother André and the Oratory have made such a mark on our lives and our imaginations.
By means of his “faith working through charity” (Galatians 5.6), Brother André continues to transform many lives. He spent much of his life as a porter, welcoming visitors. May he now be our heavenly porter, continuing to show us the way that leads to God Our Father. May you all enjoy this wonderful day of happy celebration.
+ Pierre Morissette
Bishop of Saint-Jérôme
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops