|St. John the Baptist||St. Br. André||Bl. Pier Giorgio|
|St. John the Baptist|
We Brothers like to be challenged. That’s one reason why we look to St. John the Baptist as our principal patron. He’s a man who was challenged as no one else had ever been, to do what had never been done before: prepare men’s hearts for Someone who Himself who would go where no one had ever gone before and do what had been dreamt about for centuries past. John’s challenge was to gear up his people to welcome and follow the Lord of history, Jesus of Nazareth.
To meet this challenge John used strong words: “….a voice crying in the wilderness….you brood of vipers!.....even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree….I baptize you with water but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John lived a strong life: “….clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt round his waist….his food was locusts and wild honey.” John was strong for what was right: “….it is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” John died strong: “….give me the head of John the Baptist on a dish….the king had him beheaded in prison.” But best of all John was strong for love: “…the Best Man who stands and listens for the Bridegroom rejoices greatly at his voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete: He must increase while I must decrease.”
Our Brotherhood was given a special gift – a charism - for our life and mission: the charism of the All-Sufficiency of Jesus Christ. It was a gift, yes, but also a challenge. Would Jesus REALLY be enough for us; would He really be sufficient to sustain a life and a mission? Would we dare set aside everything so as to live for Him as ‘enough and more than enough’ to meet the challenges that life throws up? Could we, with Him, go where no one has yet gone, do what has not yet been done?
We turned to John the Baptist for courage here. In faith we could see him standing there in front of us and summoning us to meet the challenge: to trust Jesus every way we can, becoming faithful to our mission as John was faithful to his. Looked at in this way, we have come to know and experience this challenge as worthy of a man’s whole life, everything he has to give. Under his patronage and with his strength we want to live all-out for the Lord for he has baptized us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. “….He must increase…..(we) must decrease….our joy is complete!”
|St. Br André|
As the pilgrim ascends the numerous stairs leading to St. Joseph’s Oratory, the largest in North America, he enters the sanctuary where healings occurred daily. These miracles, right out of a page from the gospel, came about through the prayers of a holy elderly brother. His name was Brother Andre Bessette.
The ascent leads you into a memorial; inside there are displays which narrate the life and death of this extraordinary individual. In this sanctuary, a central altar immortalizes his message: Br. Andre’s heart, that sign of great love, is preserved in a reliquary. He poured out a supernatural charity for the multitudes seeking comfort in their sufferings. Br. Andre became the heart of Christ.
Officially this humble religious was a porter for the Holy Cross Fathers. In his spare time he cared for the suffering and afflicted through the intercession of St. Joseph. The heavenly Father had blessed him with a special gift so he became a servant for those seeking healing. The Oratory provides an extraordinary witness to this ministry; it is filled with crutches and braces – those indisputable signs of Jesus’ love for humanity. However, Br. Andre declared that he did not perform miracles; in his words, “It is St. Joseph who cures.” In his love for Jesus and St. Joseph, he relied on the grace of the All-Sufficient one. Together they proclaimed to the downtrodden, “Come to me all who labor and are weary, for I will give you rest…for I am meek and humble of Heart.”
As the Pilgrims descend, they did not leave disappointed!
St. Joseph and Saint (Brother) Andre, pray for us!
|Bl. Pier Giorgio|
Where will we find a model of holiness today? Where will we find someone who approaches our life experience but still calls us forward into the gospel? Our Brotherhood has found that model in this Italian mountaineer, now blessed, who was born on Holy Saturday in 1901. Pier Giorgio knew the war and social unrest that we today know. He knew what it was to be a student and live out the college experience. He had fun. How many saints have named their adult group of friends “the Sinister ones”? Pier Giorgio could have a good time, pull a practical joke, and wield his fists and his words when the occasion arose.
Our Brotherhood has found a special place for him because he embodies a manly spirituality. He loved the outdoors and the radical adventure they provide. One can see him most at home on the treacherous slopes of the Dolomites. Pier Giorgio knew what it was to have comrades in arms, and the price of loyalty. These men learned trust from rope and harness on the mountainside, but proved it during Church-organized rallies surrounding the rise of Fascism. After being arrested in Rome, Pier Giorgio refused special treatment (his father was ambassador to Germany-check fact) but instead spent the night behind bars with his friends.
Though unnoticed by many, Pier Giorgio was a spiritual giant. He would spend long hours in nocturnal adoration, prayed the rosary regularly, and tried to live out the Beatitudes. He frequented early morning mass before escaping to the mountains. Even this was primarily a spiritual experience. He said, “I left my heart on the mountain peaks and I hope to retrieve it this summer… If my studies permitted, I would spend whole days admiring in that pure atmosphere the magnificence of God.”
Throughout his life, Pier Giorgio gave of himself to the poor. He became known for random acts of kindness. On a twelve below zero night in Berlin, he gave his overcoat to an old man shivering from the cold. His parents were aghast at these acts, and for his inability to turn away beggars who knocked on the door. Pier Giorgio cared for the unfortunate by choice, and spent much of his free time in the slums of Turin visiting the sick and dispensing aid with the St. Vincent De Paul society.
In June of 1925, his grandmother on her deathbed, Pier Giorgio suffered an attack of poliomyelitis, which he probably received from those same slums of Turin. His family and doctors did not recognize the approach of his death until too late. Much like his holiness throughout his life, his suffering was largely secret from the family that he loved. An iron caste seemed to seize his spine and cripple his body (revise). Pier Giorgio Frassati died at the age of 24.
This blessed was victorious in the most essential element of life: he discerned the will of his God and lived out the Gospel call in actions. He was a man who said yes wherever the Lord called him. For this he has an indelible place in the character of our Brotherhood.
“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.”