Wednesday, January 6, 2010

He Shall Have Pity On The Lowly And The Poor

Reading I 1 John 4:11-18

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another,
God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.

Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe
in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.
In this is love brought to perfection among us,
that we have confidence on the day of judgment
because as he is,
so are we in this world.

There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.


Responsorial Psalm 72

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts;
the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.


Gospel Mark 6:45-52

After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied,
Jesus made his disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.

And when he had taken leave of them,
he went off to the mountain to pray.
When it was evening,
the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.
Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing,
for the wind was against them.

About the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
He meant to pass by them.
But when they saw him walking on the sea,
they thought it was a ghost and cried out.
They had all seen him and were terrified.
But at once he spoke with them,
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded.
They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

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The lesson of today’s gospel is that wonders can occur, such as feeding five thousand people with five barley loves, or calming a storm, if we trust in God’s providence and mercy. The lesson of today’s first reading is that if we truly love God, and have confidence in Him, we have the power to do whatever God asks of us, even if it seems impossible.

A good example of the power of faith and confidence in God’s providence and mercy is the story of the saint of the day, Blessed Andre Bessette, of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
He was born on August 9, 1845, and baptized the next day at the church of Saint Mathias in County Rouville, Quebec, the eight of twelve children born to Isaac Bessette and Clotilde Foisy, who had been married there in 1831. The entire family lived in a one room house. His father worked as a carpenter; his mother took care of the house.

On February 20, 1855, Isaac Bessette was killed when a tree he was felling fell on him. On November 10, 1857, his mother died of consumption at the age of 43. Alfred, an orphan at the age of 12, was adopted by his uncle Timothee Nadeau. That year, while preparing to receive First Holy Communion, Alfred decided never to marry, following the example of Saint Joseph. The next year, he was confirmed by the Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe. At the age of 20, he went to live with relatives in the United States, and spent two years working in the textile and paper mills of Holyoke, Massachusetts. He returned to Quebec in 1867.

Father André Provencal noticed that this young man was prayerful, and recommended him to the Holy Cross Brothers. When he came to Notre Dame College in Montreal, he carried with him a note from the pastor: “I am sending you a saint.” The Brothers found that difficult to believe. Alfred was not a healthy young man, and he had wandered from farm to farm, shop to shop, factory to factory in Quebec and in New England, staying only until his bosses found out how little he could accomplish. At the age of 25, Alfred was unable to read or write, not an unusual circumstance for most people of that generation, either in the United States or in Canada. The Holy Cross Brothers were educators; they seemed to think that Alfred had approached them not by vocation, but desperation.

Alfred was prayerful and deeply devoted to God and to Saint Joseph. He was convinced that this was the time and the place for him to stop wandering and settle down. The Brothers accepted him into their novitiate, but soon learned what others had found before them: Alfred, now known as Brother André, was willing to work, but simply wasn’t strong enough. They asked him to leave but André appealed to Bishop Bourget who was visiting, and who promised that André would stay and take his vows.

After his profession as a Brother, André was sent to Notre Dame College (a boarding school for boys age 7 to 12) as a doorkeeper. His responsibilities consisted of: answering the door bell, welcoming guests, finding the people they were visiting, wake up the students in the morning, and deliver the mail. Years later he would joke: “After my novitiate, my superiors showed me the door; but instead of leaving through it, I stayed right there for forty years.”

In 1904, he wrote to the Archbishop of Montreal, requesting permission to build a chapel in honor of Saint Joseph on the hillside near the College. The Archbishop declined to place that burden on the congregation, but allowed Brother André to build only what he had money for. What riches did Brother André have? Five cent pieces he had collected from the boys when he cut their hair. Five and ten cent pieces he collected in a small dish he had placed in a picnic shelter near the top of the mountain next to a statue of Saint Joseph, with a sign “Donations for Saint Joseph”. He collected small change for several years, but still had only a few hundred dollars. Who could start a chapel with such meager funding?

André took his few hundred dollars and build what he could: a wooden shelter only 15’ x 18’. He kept on collecting, and three years later, returned to the Episcopal Palace to request more building. The Archbishop commented, in a wry voice, “Are you having visions of Saint Joseph telling you to build a church for him?” Brother André replied, “Bishop, I have only my great devotion to Saint-Joseph to guide me."

The Archbishop gave him permission to keep building so long as he did not go into debt. He added a roof to the shelter, then walls, heating, a shelter for pilgrims and, finally, a place where Brother André and others would live and take care of the shrine – and of the pilgrims, who came in great numbers. Over the years, Brother André helped many people experience healing and renewal on the mountain top. There were even some cases of physical healing.

Brother André never lost confidence or devotion. He had started to build a basilica on the mountain, but the Great Depression had intervened. At the age of 90, he told his co-workers to place a statue of Saint Joseph in the unfinished, unroofed basilica. He was so feeble that he had to be carried up the mountain to see the statue in its new home. He died not long after, on January 6, 1937. At his funeral, a million people came to pray before his coffin. His body now rests in the Basilica of Saint Joseph of Montreal. When his tomb was opened by the Ecclesiastical Tribunal on September 11, 1963, the body was intact and free of decomposition.
Brother André did not live to see the work of the basilica completed. But, in Brother André’s mind, it would never be completed because there are there are always more ways to bring comfort and healing to others.

Brother André died in Montreal in 1937, was declared Venerable in 1978 and beatified in 1982. One miracle was approved for beatification, and a second one must be certified for canonization. Pope Benedict XVI has recently acknowledged as scientifically inexplicable a healing due to the intercession of Blessed Brother Andre. The details of this miracle are confidential for now. This important step renews our hope that soon Blessed Brother André Bessette, C.S.C., will be recognized among the saints of the Catholic Church.

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