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Christopher ParkerJanuary 05, 2023
St. Andre Bessette, a member of the Holy Cross Brothers and founder of St. Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal is pictured in an undated photo from the archives of St. Joseph's Oratory. He is known for his intense piety, miraculous cures and for his dedication to the building of the shrine honoring St. Joseph. (CNS photo/archives of St. Joseph's Oratory)

A Reflection for Friday before Epiphany

Find today’s readings here.

Today is the feast of St. André Bessette, whose story always stood out to me among the scores of “saint-of-the-day” assignments I undertook in grammar school. I liked St. André’s story because it’s an underdog story: An uneducated and sickly orphan joins the clergy even after being initially barred him from it; he serves graciously and humbly as a doorkeeper for nearly 40 years; he saves his money five cents at a time until he raises $200 for his dream of building a chapel to St. Joseph; and today, his St. Joseph’s Oratory is one of the most beautiful church buildings in North America.

I recognized as a child that St. André’s life is one of perseverance and patience. It’s a reminder that the most difficult goals are also often the most meaningful. But I’m now revisiting this story as an adult, and I’m seeing a new aspect of St. André’s story. I’m noticing that he was repeatedly underestimated and excluded from certain opportunities because he was sick and illiterate. Instead of receiving support, St. André had to surmount additional challenges in his path to success. He flourished in a world that was not designed to raise up people like him.

May St. André Bessette inspire us to take small steps in our own lives, toward our goals and toward a more equitable society.

Though St. André entered the novitiate over 150 years ago, these shortcomings are still all around us, every day. Our world still fails to accommodate many people who do not fit a rigid mold of physical and mental abilities. And the cultural biases that sometimes lead us to value certain attributes or abilities over others remain deeply ingrained.

In this liturgical season of Christmas, a season rooted in humility and appreciation for all people, St. André’s story should remind us to look inside ourselves and confront our preconceptions. Do I think that I have more inherent value than someone else because I’ve spent more time in school? Because I’m stronger or healthier than they are? Because I better conform to the models that my society uplifts? And what am I doing to change my preconceptions, and to tear down the structures that discriminate against the marginalized?

May St. André Bessette inspire us to take small steps in our own lives, toward our goals and toward a more equitable society.

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