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Brother André: The case for sainthood

In 1904 a humble Montreal monk named Brother André realized a dream: to build a shrine to St. Joseph. Pilgrims flocked there, seeking not just a place of prayer but the touch of Brother André — a man his followers believed could work miracles. A century later the shrine, St. Joseph's Oratory, was attracting two million visitors every year and in 2010 Brother André was declared a saint. CBC Archives looks at his life and legacy.

In his lifetime and even after his death, thousands of believers credit Brother André with working miracles. But when it comes to declaring a saint, it's not the quantity of miracles that matters -- it's the quality. Father Angelo Mitri is the man who's been assigned to defend Brother André's case before the Vatican, and he thinks he's found one miracle that will push Brother André closer to sainthood. CBC Television's The Fifth Estate describes the making of a saint.

On June 12, 1978, Pope Paul VI declared Brother André venerable, the first of three steps on the path to sainthood. Now, in order for Brother André to achieve the second step, beatification, Father Mitri must prove a miracle that can be directly attributed to Brother André's intercession. His best hope is Joe Audino, an American businessman who, in 1958, was dying of cancer at age 38. "He had reached the point from which no patient really returns," recalls his doctor.

Twenty years later Joe Audino is still alive, the cancer having suddenly disappeared. Audino believes his prayer to Brother André brought on the cure. Father Mitri agrees, and he believes Canada will have its first saint within ten years.
• The cause for Brother André's canonization — the process of declaring a saint — began informally immediately after his death in 1937. Archbishop Charbonneau of Montreal ordered an official inquiry in 1940.
• A tribunal in Montreal heard testimony from 49 witnesses over the next nine years. Between 1946 and 1953 the testimony and 242 letters from church officials were sent to Rome.

• Over the next eight years all the documents were reproduced by hand by copyists at the Vatican and studied by officials.
• In 1960 the cause was officially introduced to the Court of Rome. The court was then charged with scrutinizing the case and proving Brother André was a holy, virtuous man who worked miracles.

• The court appointed judges to hear the case and a postulator (also called a prosecutor) to argue in favour of Brother André's cause.
• An opponent to the postulator, called the devil's advocate, was charged with challenging the evidence put forth by the postulator. The devil's advocate was also called the defender of the faith.
• In June 1978 Pope Paul VI declared Brother André venerable.

• When the church declares someone venerable, it's a recognition that he or she is good and holy.
• In the next step of the path to sainthood, a person is declared blessed — also known as beatification. That means the person can be publicly venerated, or worshipped, in his or her local diocese.
• Once the person has been canonized, or made a saint, he or she is entitled to veneration around the world. The saint's feast day is also proclaimed.

• In April 1982, Maclean's reported that St. Joseph's Oratory put forth incorrect details about Joe Audino. According to the magazine, the oratory had said Audino "prayed at the oratory to be rid of his cancer and was cured after invoking the name of Brother André for two years." But Audino told the magazine otherwise: "Audino says he didn't even discover he had cancer until two years after his visit to the oratory. He does, however, believe that his constant praying to Brother André cured his disease."

• In February of 2010, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he had approved Brother André for sainthood. He was to be formally canonized in a ceremony on Oct. 17, 2010. Upon hearing the news that Brother André would become a saint, Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded with a press release stating: "His canonization confirms the devotion of the countless people who came to him for help during his life, the million who attended his funeral and the two million who visit St. Joseph’s Oratory every year… Brother André’s life shows us the power of faith and the importance of concern for the sick and others in need."
Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: Sept. 12, 1978
Guest(s): Joe Audino, Angelo Mitri, Phil Reuben
Reporter: Adrienne Clarkson
Duration: 18:21

Last updated: February 24, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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