Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 25, 2004
Brother Andre's chapel blessed
St. Joseph's Oratory consecrated by Montreal's Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
It was standing room only in the huge dome-shaped basilica of St. Joseph's Oratory as Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, the archbishop of Montreal, led in the consecration of the church 100 years after its founding as a tiny chapel.
About 2,500 people, including over two dozen bishops from across Canada, attended the consecration ceremony Oct. 17.
The chapel was founded on the side of Mount Royal by Brother Andre Bessette of the Congregation of Holy Cross, who was the doorkeeper of Notre Dame College, a boys' boarding school on the street from where the basilica now stands.
He was dubbed the "miracle man of Montreal" after many sick and handicapped people reported inexplicable healings attributed to his prayers.
Pope John Paul beatified Brother Andre in 1982 and the oratory he founded has become an international shrine with two million pilgrims visiting the sanctuary each year. It is also the largest place of pilgrimage in the world dedicated to St. Joseph.
A soul of fire
Turcotte paid tribute to Brother Andre, saying he had "a soul of fire" and that he lived a life that was always close to God.
The cardinal recited the prayer of consecration of the basilica, sprinkled holy water on the congregation and the walls, and delivering the solemn blessing of the church.
The consecration of a church is like a baptism, according to oratory officials. It gives a sacred character by dedicating it to God. "When it is consecrated, a church becomes the official meeting place of heaven and earth, of God with humanity," they said.
Churches can be consecrated even centuries after their founding, as was the case of Notre Dame de Paris, which was started in 1163, but consecrated 700 years later.
The Basilica of St. Joseph's Oratory was begun in 1924 and completed in 1967. Its high altar was consecrated in 1954, the same year as Pope Pius XII raised the oratory to the status of a minor basilica.
The consecration of the oratory launched a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the basilica.
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