One million people lined up between January 6 to 12, 1937 to pay their respects to Brother André, CSC, in Montreal. His claim to fame – he was the doorkeeper. Well, it was not so much as being the doorkeeper as it was with what he did in that position. He welcomed visitors. Anyone, from any background, in any condition would fine a welcome from Brother André.
He was born in 1850 and as a young adolescent man he moved to New England and worked in textile mills. After moving back to Quebec, he befriended the parish priest who helped him discern a religious vocation.
He entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1871 and was given the role of doorkeeper at the Collège Notre-Dame, a responsibility he would have for forty years. As the doorkeeper, he would welcome anyone who was visiting. He was so good at welcoming people, that people would stop by just to visit with him to speak with him or to seek advice. The sick would come and he would direct them to pray to Saint Joseph for healing.
Soon the healings began and many more people would come. Eventually Brother André would build a small chapel to Saint Joseph on land near the Collège; overtime this would develop into the grand Basilica Oratory of Saint Joseph overlooking Montréal. Brother Andrew was canonized in 2010 by Pope Benedict.
Brother André in his role as porter captured the essence of Jesus’ teaching in the second part of today’s gospel passage. Jesus says in the end, “And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
His encouragement for charity is evident. The saying comes within the broader teaching on discipleship and what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Jesus begins expressing the need for his disciples to put their relationship with Him and thus His Way before all other relationships in life. The relationship with Him does not eliminate other relationships but actually helps them to grow and develop in a healthy and good fashion.
Next Jesus speaks of the centrality of the cross in discipleship. He says: “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me;” which he further specifies saying: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Here Jesus is speaking of self-emptying love. This type of love sees the good of the other as preeminent. This love sees an opportunity in every encounter to reach out and give of one’s self for the good of the person encountered.
The “loosing” of life is the “finding” for if it is done as living the Way, when one is truly joined with Christ and walking in His footsteps, then death leads to life – even in and most commonly experienced – in the simple deeds of today, like giving a cup of cold water to a little one.
The welcome one gives to those in need and also extends to those who follow the Lord. Hospitality is extended to them with the same welcome and charity that one would extend to Christ himself. Jesus identifies with the poor. He identifies with His apostles and disciples as well. So He says: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.”
The story of Elisha and the woman of influence in the first reading illustrates this charity. The woman recognizes Elisha as a prophet and offers hospitality. She says to her husband: “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there.”
Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading, a passage from Romans, that through baptism we are united with Christ in His death and so have a promised share in His life. He speaks of living in “newness of life.”
We share in His life and are one with Him. As a result of this, we become representatives of God in the world we live, like ambassadors of God. Hence we are urged to live well by following God and His way. Paul writes: you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.” One of the ways we do this is by welcoming others, and sharing with them the life that has been given us.
Brother André welcomed many people during his life. He was God’s instrument of charity and healing through the simple act of welcome. Many people came to know God’s love through those simple but numerous encounters.
We have the same opportunities, just think of the large number of people we meet each day. These opportunities provide us a means, as Jesus says, to loose our life, and in doing so, to find it.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103