Today In Fact, 9 August

Brother Andre of Quebec was born this day in 1845. One of 13 children, Andre was orphaned by the age of 12 so his parish priest, knowing Andre was a gentle soul, sent him to join the order of the Holy Cross. Because of his poor education and lowly social status, Brother Andre was given the job of porter, sacristan, laundryman and porter at Notre Dame College in Quebec. “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained 40 years,” he would say with a wry smile.

The thing about Brother Andre was his devotion to Saint Joseph. In his many visits to the sick, he would rub the sick person with oil from the lamp in the College Chapel. People claimed cures.

When an epidemic broke out at a nearby college, 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.

So many sick people knocked at the College door to see the porter and be cured that the College officials and some parents started to complain. His healing ministry was curtailed and he was only permitted to receive the sick in the nearby tramway station rather than the College. As his reputation spread, Brother André became quite a controversial figure. There were many religious in the Congregation of Holy Cross, teachers and parents of students at the College who supported him but many others opposed him and even considered him dangerous to the well-being of the school’s reputation because they regarded him as a charlatan.

All the while Brother Andre raised money to build a Church dedicated to St. Joseph. Building eventually began in 1924.

When Brother Andre died at the age of 91 in 1937, a million people filed past his coffin. His body was placed in the Church he had built; St. Joseph’s Oratory.

Today Brother Andre is still invoked by many French Canadians when they are ill. So next time, greet the doorman or security guard.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (

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