The Congregation of Holy Cross was founded by the French priest Blessed Basil Moreau in 1837. On September 15, 2007, Blessed Basil was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Saint André Bessette (the first Holy Cross saint) was likewise canonized by Pope Benedict on October 17, 2010. Since Catholic education around the globe is a prime mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross, those in all of the world’s Catholic school communities – teachers, students, parents, coaches, and others – can be inspired by the lives of these two holy men. For now, we will look at Saint André in particular.
August 9 is the birthday of Saint André (August 9, 1845 – January 6, 1937). But Saint André does not benefit from our celebration of his birthday, because he is spending eternity in God’s presence! Of course, it is typical to celebrate a saint’s feast day and Saint André’s is January 7 (since January 6 is reserved on the liturgical calendar as the Feast of the Epiphany). It is also worthwhile to take the time to celebrate the day when a saint was born, entering the world and preparing to honor the Lord with limited time. Since August 9 also finds us concluding the summer and preparing for the new academic year, below are three simple ways that Saint André can help prepare us for the new school year.
1. Oratory Visit
If you need a reminder of the value of hard work, industriousness, patience, and perseverance, learn about Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Saint André, who had a special devotion to Saint Joseph, personally planned and oversaw the building of this church, reflective of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” You can even take a “Virtual Visit” of the main areas of the Oratory. Look for the section of the wall outside of the Votive Chapel with all of the canes left by those who had been lame, but were miraculously healed by God following the powerful intercession of Saint André.
Believe in miracles, both inside and outside of the classroom. No, not like when someone is going back-to-school shopping and declares “It’s a miracle that I found a new pair of uniform shoes in the right size” (that is probably merely a coincidence); rather, believe in the intercession of saints (see #1), which results in outcomes that scientific skeptics cannot explain, thereby pointing to the supernatural: God. After all, behind every miracle is God, revealing himself to us. “When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I can do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And their eyes were opened” (Matthew 9:28-30); “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and believe’” (John 20:29); “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
3. Prayer Plans
Come up with a prayer plan for the school year now. Saint André was not highly educated, at least formally, but he taught many through his example, based on his unconditional love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer, which entails relying on the Lord and not going it alone, must be an integral part of our lives, particularly during the academic year. No matter our role or category of participation within our Catholic school community, prayer must be a part of everything that we do. Look at how frequently God the Son prayed to God the Father, including every time that he faced a trial during his earthly ministry. During Saint André’s decades-long ministry of Christ-centered service to those who came to see him, seeking his prudent counsel, he remained prayerful and subsequently selfless, keeping Jesus’ words in his heart, mind, and actions: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Happy birthday, Saint André Bessette! Please pray for us and lead us ever closer to the ultimate Teacher!