Saint Joseph’s Oratory – A dream come true

A story that began in 1904 

Door keeper at college Notre-Dame, Brother Andre has a dream. From the narrow window of his office he saw this small hill that people of Montreal proudly called  “the mountain”. In fact it was a quiet hill were wealthy people had built cottages a little away from the city.  Brother Andre hoped and prayed that one day it would be possible to build on this hill a small Oratory where people could come and pray Saint Joseph. In 1896 the community bought this land and the hope of Brother Andre revived.  In 1904 the superior of the college allowed Brother Andre to build his Oratory. The community was poor at the time and Brother Andre with his friends and collaborators has to find the money to build this small Oratory.

At the beginning Brother Andre was surrounded by a small group of faithful friends but soon people started coming in great numbers to meet Brother Andre and pray with him. With the help of the pilgrims the project started to grow. Twenty years after the foundation, a rectory for the religious had been built, a crypt church big enough to accommodate thousand persons was completed and already plans are made to complete the large Church that would later be declared Basilica.

Brother Andre wanted an Oratory, a small prayer place but the faith of millions of people coming to this sanctuary transform this early plan into the marvelous shrine we find today on the Mont-Royal. On January 6, 1937, when Brother Andre died, the construction was on its way and Brother Andre rejoiced to see the marvels that were realized. He knew well that this is God’s way of using the most humble servant to realize great things.

After the death of Brother Andre, the interest of pilgrims for this sanctuary continued and millions of pilgrims and visitors continued to come to the shrine. The beatification of Brother Andre in 1982 and his canonization in 2010 were important moments in the life of to the shrine. Today tow millions of pilgrims and visitors visit the place every year.

A beacon of faith and peace at the hearth of a modern city

Every week thousands of people come to the Oratory to pray and celebrate their faith. Beautiful liturgies in French, in English and occasionally in Spanish allow catholic to participate in the prayers and worship of the Church. Those who wish to meet a priest for the sacrament of penance and reconciliation find pries available every day from morning to evening.

Nowadays, Christians and non-Christians come to the Oratory to find a place of peace and personal prayer. Some will spend time praying in the crypt church, others in the votive chapel, or near the tomb of Saint Andre Bessette. Some prefer the majestic Basilica others will rather spend time   in the small original chapel or in the beautiful garden of the way of the cross. Some prefer to play in silence others prefer to join in common prayer and worship.

 A place of beauty for all

Visitors are impressed by the beauty of this place, The art work the impressive architecture the lovely gardens, the melodious music create a climate of peace and invite even non-believers to stop and open their heaths to the beauty of this world, a beauty that invited to Go beyond what the eyes can see and the ear hear. The beauty of the place invites to discover the mystery that lies beyond. For some visitors the experience of the beauty of the place lights a spark in their hearth and slowly awaken a quest for God.  Tourists come curious to discover this famous shrine but they often find much more, they find their way to meet God.

A place to meet people filled with compassion

In the early days people came to meet an exceptional man, a humble brother who met every one with compassion and spoke to them about the love of God for us, about the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. The religious who pursue the work of Brother Andre continue to receive visitor, listen to their hopes and their sufferings. They welcome each one and invite them to discover the power of God’s love.

Holy Cross religious are proud to continue the mission of the Oratory

Saint Andre Bessette was a Holy-Cross brother and the congregation of Holy Cross has discovered in his life and work an important part of its tradition. Today it has become clear that the mission of the Oratory is part and parcel of the mission of Holy-Cross. In the past this mission was almost exclusively done by Canadian members of Holy-Cross. Holy Cross has changed and   today we find Holy Cross of five different nationalities working together at the service of the pilgrims and visitors. We can foresee in the coming years a rich diversity of members of Holy-Cross working together at the service of the more than 2 millions of visitors coming to the sanctuary every year.  Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau encouraged the members of Holy Cross to work together with zeal, bringing to people the message of Jesus. It is with the same zeal for the mission that Holy-Cross from different parts of the world, come together today to pursue the mission of Holy-Cross, inspired by Saint Andre Bessette.

And the dream goes on

The dream of Brother Andre was not an ordinary dream; it was an act of faith. Brother Andre new that God it was God’s work and he knew that God will continue this work. Since the very beginning men and women have come together to pursue with the same faith the work so well begun. Thousands of pilgrims come to the Oratory every year; they come with the hope to see a world transformed by compassion, love, solidarity and justice. They come with their sufferings and their hope. They come to place their lives in the hands of God and entrust their worries to saint Brother Andre their brother and their friend.

Working in this Shrine is a privilege. Our faith is constantly revived by the faith of pilgrims, our love of Saint Joseph and brother Andre is strengthened by their love, our hope is nourished by their unfailing hope. We are touched by the courage and spiritual depth of so many pilgrims and visitors. Their response to the Lord strengthens us in our own vocation as religious of Holy Cross. We walk along with them as men of hope and we know that this dream will always go on.

Crédit: Père Claude Grou, c.s.c.