Overnight with Brother André’s Heart at St. Joseph’s Oratory

254_365_sep10 (montrealpictures.com)

Oratoire St-Joseph, Montréal (Courtesy: montrealpictures.com)

Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal (St. Joseph’s Oratory) is Canada’s largest church. When I lived in Montréal in my early adult years I would often mount the daytime steps of the oratory to sit outside the basilica to listen to the carillon, or inside the basilica to listen to its pipe organ, and to stroll by the wall of abandoned crutches of the miraculously healed and to look every once in a while at the red reliquary which held Brother André’s heart.


Crutches of the healed, Oratoire Saint-Joseph.

Brother André, who maintained that these miracles were the work of Saint Joseph, was beatified by John Paul II some several years after I had departed Montréal, and later sainted by Benedict XVI. To my knowledge I had no hand in either of these papal benedictions.


Brother André’s heart.


We required visible means of support.
The dark skies and hollow winds
Proved episodic, as we infected the easy waste
That logic denies syllogism to.
— “Social Oratory,” 2.9

Nights I would also from time to time ascend the oratory steps to sit at their summit to admire the city. Sometimes I would sit the entire night, for I was much younger then and inclined to earlier forms of reverie, which, overall, did me more good than harm. Moreover, youth dismissed the recursive mortal need for seven nights’ sleep in any given week. And over and above the value of nocturnal introspection, these starstruck nights of urban gazing engendered some poems that have survived the purges others, necessarily, have succumbed to. And these will be found in Caravaggio’s Dagger.

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