Saint Joseph's Oratory

(redirected from Oratoire Saint-Joseph)

Saint Joseph’s Oratory (Montréal)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Saint Joseph’s Oratory, a prominent structure in the middle of the city of Montréal, Quebec, has become a major center for Roman Catholics because of the many healings that have been attributed to pilgrimages there. The oratory had an inauspicious beginning in the hands of its unexpected founder. Brother André (1845–1937) was an uneducated brother assigned to a humble position in his order, the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He had been a sickly child, his frail body hindering both his school attendance and his search for a vocation. As a young man, he encountered some Holy Cross brothers, and in 1870 he joined their order. During his novitiate he learned to read in order to go through the basic program of spiritual formation required of all new brothers. Following his admission to holy orders in 1872, he was assigned as the porter at the College of Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Coeur in Côte-des-Neiges, a position he would retain for the next forty years.

Soon after he assumed his duties, members of his order began to experience healings as a result of Brother André’s prayers. Rumors began to spread, and guests who visited the college soon made similar testimonies about miraculous healings. Brother André ascribed these powers to Saint Joseph (the human father of Jesus) toward whom he had developed an early devotion. He also began to nurture the idea of developing a shrine to Saint Joseph and soon associated his idea with Mount Royal in Montréal.

Brother André began work on the original small chapel in 1904. He was assisted by peoplewho had come to know of him. Once the chapel was opened, word spread quickly that it was a place where healings occurred. During the next 15 years, the church had to be rebuilt three times to accommodate the swelling crowds. The present church, which was first completed in 1918, seats 4,000. Construction work continued through the century, however. The dome, which stands about 200 feet high, rests on Mount Royal. It is the highest structure in Montréal and may be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

The Oratory is itself an imposing building. However, it is its continued association with healings that has cause hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to visit it annually. On the lower level of the church is the shrine to Saint Joseph, Brother André’s crypt, and a display of crutches and other artifacts left behind by the many who have found their health during their visit. Brother André died in 1937, and a million people viewed his casket. His name was blessed (a step toward canonization) in 1982.

Sources:

Bergeron, Henri-Paul. Brother André, C.S.C.: The Wonder Man of Mount Royal. Montréal: Fides, 1969.
Hatch, Alden. The Miracle of the Mountain: The Story of Brother André and the Shrine on Mount Royal. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1959.
LaFreniere, Bernard. Brother André According to Witnesses. Montréal: St. Joseph’s Oratory, 1990.