Whenever I travel, I inevitably seek out some of the local Catholic churches and make a brief stop at each. This was true of my most recent trip to New England and Canada. Vacationing with my two priest-friends, we visited some magnificent edifices including St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Halifax, Nova Scotia, St. Dunstan’s Cathedral Basilica, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral in Quebec City, and the Co-Cathedral of St. Anthony of Padua in Longueuil, (just outside Montreal) Canada. A highlight for us while in Montreal was a pilgrimage to St. Joseph’s Oratory.
What struck me in particular during this recent visit to the Oratory were the many languages, cultures and peoples. I recognized French, Spanish, Italian and English being spoken by various visitors. I identified people from India, Africa, Korea and China—some even dressed in native garb. While there were people at the Oratory who were obviously tourists visiting a beautiful or interesting place, there were also people of faith coming as pilgrims to see this magnificent church and its saint—Brother Andre Bessette.
As reported by the shrine:
Brother André, born Alfred Bessette, surely is one of the most popular Québecois of the 20th century. Even before he was canonized in 2010, his reputation for holiness crossed frontiers and influenced generations of people. At first assigned to be doorkeeper at Collège Notre-Dame, he was then named caretaker at that house of prayer which he shepherded into existence on Mount Royal. The religious brother welcomed thousands of distressed people or those who were looking for a ray of hope. He listened to them and recommended that they pray to Saint Joseph in whom he had full confidence. Any number of miraculous healings took place there and hearts turned toward God. Today, Saint Brother André continues to be an inspiration and a friend for women and men of any religious practice.
People prayed, attended Mass, lit candles, purchased religious articles and toured the shrine with varying degrees of reverence, respect, understanding and faith. There were men and women, the elderly, children and infants, the handicapped and the infirm. The colors of skin included shades of black, white, yellow, red and brown with the many variations capable of rivaling a 120 box of Crayola crayons. This was a clear picture for me of the universal “Catholic” Church.
I also reflected on the priests who have served our parish of St. Joseph—coming from countries like Ireland, India, and Africa. We shared heritages from Italy, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, to name a few. Ideally, the common denominator and unifying factor is a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, God and Savior.
People may come to an oratory, (or a church or cathedral) for the beauty, out of curiosity, or desperate for answers. Through the intercession of St. Andre and St. Joseph and the many other saints in heaven, may they leave with a deeper faith and realization of the love that God has for each of us through Jesus Christ.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
|St. Mary, Halifax, Nova Scotia|
|St. Dunstan, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island|
Notre Dame, Quebec City
|St. Anthony of Padua, Longueuil|
|St. Joseph Oratory, Montreal|