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Jesus Heals by Msgr. Joseph M. Champlin

  A frail but prayerful young man of twenty-five in 1870 entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in Montreal as a candidate. Raised almost like an orphan, Alfred Bessette—a simple person with little formal education but rather wise and devout had attracted the attention and received the support of his pastor in this venture. The priest wrote to the superiors of that community and quite directly told them, "I am sending you a saint."

After the customary period of probation, during which serious doubts arose about Alfred's suitability as a future religious brother because of his fragile health, the Holy Cross Congregation accepted him--although rather reluctantly. They assigned Brother Andre to a humble post as porter at Notre Dame College in that Canadian city, a position he continued to hold for nearly a half century.

About five years after his religious profession, the self-effacing brother's faith-filled and caring concern for the sick began to produce remarkable effects. One day, he visited a boy in bed at the infirmary who was afflicted with a severe fever. The young man objected at first but then, feeling much better, got out of bed and went out into the recreation yard. College authorities immediately summoned Brother Andre and remonstrated with him.

"You had no right to interfere," they complained; "that boy is ill."  "Please permit a doctor to examine him," Brother Andre replied. "You'll see that St. Joseph cured him." The doctor came and, after a careful examination of the youth, pronounced him perfectly well.

Shortly thereafter a smallpox epidemic broke out at a nearby college. It struck both students and religious, with some dying as a result of the disease. Brother Andre volunteered to nurse the ailing there and, upon arrival, knelt and prayed to St. Joseph to protect the sick. No one died after that.

That same year, a colleague named Brother Alderic, bursar at Notre Dame College, was suffering from a serious leg wound which had failed to heal after two months of treatment. Brother Andre often used some oil from a lamp next to a statue of St. Joseph in his visitations to the sick and had mentioned its wonderful effects to the incapacitated confrere.

The bursar secured a vial of the oil, applied a few drops to his leg wound, prayed to St. Joseph for a cure, and promised that if the saint answered his prayer, he would receive communion the next day in thanksgiving.  The morning after application of the oil, Brother Alderic commented, "I felt no pain. At the end of two days, the wound had completely healed."

Those three occasions when cures were effected through his intercession were the beginning of an immense, unique ministry of healing by the holy Brother Andre. In 1916 alone, for example, four hundred thirty-five cures were recorded at the shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in Montreal.  The community's fears about Andre's fragile health proved unfounded. Andre died in 1937 at ninety-one, continuing his life of prayer and healing to the very end.

In June of 1978 - not many years later by Church standards - Pope Paul VI declared Brother Andre to be "Venerable," the first step toward canonization, and noted how he had practiced the theological and cardinal virtues to a heroic degree.' Pope John Paul II then elevated the humble man a notch higher and on May 23, 1982, named him Blessed Andre Bessette.

Ordained in 1956, I accepted the possibility of miracles both during the decades before and after I became a priest. But until a few years ago, I judged that miraculous cures, like the ones cited above, happened only in certain holy places and only through connection with certain holy people either still living or now deceased. As a young priest, I recall driving past a storefront church with this large neon sign outside it: “Jesus Heals”. The words are true. When we pray with faith, and occasionally without our hardly even asking or believing, Christ heals us: sometimes physically, always spiritually, and in the end, perfectly. God does indeed mend wounded hearts and bodies.

Condensed from Healing in the Catholic Church by Rev. Joseph Champlain. 1985 Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. His latest book, The Marginal Catholic, Challenge, Don’t Crush and What It Means to be Catholic, are available at

  Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the July 2001  edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.