Saint André Bessette, whose great love and devotion to Saint Joseph gave us the magnificent Oratory of Saint Joseph in Montreal, Canada, was a Brother of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The Congregation of Holy Cross founder was Blessed Basil-Antoine Marie Moreau. Blessed Basil was born in 1799 in Laigné-en-Belin, in the Diocese of Le Mans, France. His parents, Louis and Louise Pioger Moreau, were poor but pious and were dedicated to raising their 14 children in the Faith which they themselves so ardently practiced.
The Moreau family lived in a time when Catholics in France struggled with the turmoil of the French Revolution. The Church was devastated by years of civil war, with nearly two-thirds of France’s clergy and religious either exiled or killed. Basil himself had been baptized by a fugitive priest who had refused to swear loyalty to the state “church”. While in hiding, these holy and courageous men secretly carried on the true Faith and offered the Sacraments to the faithful.
From his early years, young Basil always showed a great love for God and for His Church. He had a zeal about him that impressed everyone — a quality that marked his entire life. After the Concordat of 1801, which brought about a period of peace and openness for the Church, a new pastor, Father Julien Le Provost, was assigned to the parish church of Laigné. He recognized the qualities of young Basil and convinced his father to allow him to study the academic subjects he would need in order to enter the seminary.
At the age of fifteen, he entered the college of Chateau-Gontier, then went on to Saint Vincent Seminary and was ordained a priest for the diocese of Le Mans in 1821. Still sensitive to the memory of persecution and suffering brought about during the Reign of Terror, Moreau organized a group of “Auxiliary Priests”, energetic young men whose mission was to travel around the diocese to preach, teach, and bring the message of Christ to those in forgotten towns and villages.
Indeed, in rural areas children had not learned even the basics of reading and writing as most schools prior to the Revolution had been Catholic and in the chaos of the upheaval the new government had not replaced them. Except for the few whose parents were able to provide some semblance of an education, an entire generation of French children grew up to be almost completely illiterate.
In 1837, the association, which had grown to include both priests and brothers, took the name of Sainte-Croix (or Holy Cross). A short time after, Father Basil founded a group of sisters known as the Marianites, thus completing the Holy Cross family.
In order to maximize their spiritual vigor, Blessed Moreau chose to place all his religious under the patronage of the Holy Family. To each of the three groups he dedicated a patron, consecrating priests to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the brothers to the Pure Heart of St. Joseph, and the sisters to the Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart of Mary. He also established Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Sorrows, as patroness for all of Holy Cross.
Going back to our humble brother in Montreal, Saint André Bessette, it can be noted that, along with all the other brothers in his order, he too would have consecrated himself to the Pure Heart of St. Joseph, as was the desire of their holy founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. Brother André was thus chosen by God to be the instrument to witness to the world the awesome power and the great mission of Saint Joseph for our time.
Significant Apparitions of Saint Joseph
• Cotignac, France — to Gaspard Ricard on June 7, 1660
• Knock, Ireland — to five witnesses on August 21, 1879
• Fatima, Portugal — to Jacinta, Francisco Marto and Lúcia dos Santos on October 13, 1917
• Fostoria, Ohio (Our Lady of America) — to Sr. Mildred Mary Ephrem Neuzil in October, 1956 and on March 19, 1958
• Itapiranga, Brazil (Shrine of the Three Hearts) — to Edson Glauber from 1994-1998