The Catholic Defender: Saint Andre Bessette

Posted by John Benko - April 20th, 2013

One of the benefits of being Catholic is the great access we have with the Kingdom of heaven.

Jesus gives this to everyone, but unfortunately, sadly some to not understand this very well.

Hebrews 12:1-2 states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God”.

St. Andre Bessette saw this vision and now is among those within this cloud of glory.

He was born in Quebec Canada raised in a small town called Mont-Saint-Gregore. He was so weak and frail, he was given an emergency Baptism.

My wife worked at a Catholic Hospital and has baptized infants just like this, which shows how sick he was at birth.

He was one of 10 children and work was difficult, his Father sought work and was rarely home. He was tragically crushed by a falling tree working as a lumberjack.

Shortly after this accident, his Mother developed consumption (tuberculosis) leaving St. Andre Orphaned by the time he was 12 years old.

He would try any odd jobs he could find, he had no trade, no real education and his health was frail.

Through all this wondering he steadily grew in his spirituality. He maximized what some people will minimally do.

He would spend his free time before a Crucifix, or he would talk to friends about our Lord. He would be someone after my own heart.

He was a lot like the Children of Fatima as he would do penance for those he would pray for. By the time he was 20 years old, he would come to the United States seeking work in New England.

There, he caught the eye of a Parish Priest who recommended St. Andre to The Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal. Fr. André Provençal wrote, “I’m sending you a saint”.

Because of his poor health, he was not initially accepted, However, the Montreal Archbishop Ignace Bourget, intervened for St. Andre Bessette and he was finally accepted in 1872.

From this time on, he would be known as “Brother Andre”. He made his final vows on February 2, 1874, at the age of 28.
Incredibly, Brother Andre would serve there for 40 years. He took hospitality to a whole different level as he served as a receptionist, a Wall-Mart Greeter. He did the tasks that most would gladly give to him to do and he did it with a smile, with love and devotion.

He was no average Wall-Mart shopper, he would go and visit the sick at their homes, at the hospitals, it wasn’t long that rumors of healing began to spread. Something he never took credit, but only praised God!

People began to seek him out for prayer and he would always have a kind word for each person, but he never took credit for any of the supernatural events taking place.

He had a strong devotion to St. Joseph and the Holy Family. He became known as the “Miracle worker of Mount-Roya”. With all this excitement surrounding him, of course the Secularist and the anti-Catholics would do what ever harassment they can muster.

That’s the way it always is. His popularity far exceeded the criticism as when he died at age 91, 1,000,000 people past his coffin. That is wild.

This reminds me when I went to Chicago to see Pope John Paul II with about 2,000,000 other people. The famed Atheist, Madeline O’Hara along with about 25 protesters arrived to protest the Papal Mass at Grant Park.

St. Andre Bassette was canonized a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on December 19, 2009. So many times do we see the scripture teaching that the humble are lifted up by God.

You do not have to be a strong “Hulk Hogan” type to gain popularity, but a simple love for God and great acts of kindness.

Nothing wrong with being an athlete, but it is much better to be a Christian Athlete! St. Andre Bessette, pray for us Amen!

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The Catholic Defender: Father Byles Made a Difference

Posted by John Benko - April 7th, 2013

I have met some great Catholic Priests in my 26 years in the United States Army.

There are great stories of heroism and courage displayed by many Catholic Priests.

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church beginning with the Apostles on down many gave their lives.

Of the original faithful eleven Apostles, 10 of them gave their lives for the Lord and His Catholic Church.

Father Maxmillian Kolbe, Father Kapaun and Father Capodanno are three great examples during World War II and the Korean War.

I can give some great examples as recently as the Iraqi Freedom Campaigns, there are many Catholic Priests as well as the faithful who have suffered great persecution and trials.

I want to remember another Catholic Priest that few are aware of the heroism displayed by this man of God.

This week many of us will remember the sinking of the Titanic, something that had been thought impossible.

On it’s first voyage, the Titanic struck an iceburg and as a result, the ship sunk. There have been movies that have given the story, there have been songs performed that told the tale of the sinking of the Titanic.

I do not recall in any of the stories about the Titanic the heroism of Father Thomas Byles. Father Byles had been given two opportunities to get into a lifeboat, but instead, he continued to give spiritual aid to the other victims hearing confessions and showing the true love of God.

Father was an Eglish convert to the Catholic Faith and was on his way to America to officiate his Brother William’s marraige.

Eye witness accounts show that Father Byles was offering his breviary and the Rosary at the time of the collison with the iceberg.

It was April 14, 1912, according to witnesses, Father Byles was seen helping the women and children get into lifeboats.

He heard confessions and calmed the frantic with the Rosary.

What a picture this places in my mind, what a great focus that none of the movies and songs I’ve heard have presented.

Father Byles standing on the deck with people on their knees praying.

According to, a website that keeps Father’s story alive, it shares the testimony of Agnes McCoy who said, “Father Byles was saying the rosary and praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish” as told to the New York Telegram on 22 April, 1912.

Father Patrick McKenna, a friend of Father Byles, said later, “He twice refused the offer of a place in a boat, saying his duty was to stay on the ship while one soul wanted his minisreations”. The Church Progress, by the end of April early May, wrote this tribute to Father Byles:

“In almost every line that has been written, and in every sentence that has been spoken, there stands boldly out above every other expression a picture of sublime heroism that will be copied into the pages of history. And well it may, for it is deserving of that honor.

But when it is, mention should be made of one whom pens and tongues have almost forgotten in their accounts of this awful sea tragedy. Among those who safely reached the land again no one seems to have been aware of his presence on the ship, but we may hope that many who meet him in a blissful eternity will praise God that Father Thomas Byles was there to administer absolution unto them.”

There were other heros of great courage, Fr Juozas Montvila (27 years old), gave his life for another as he also refused to be place on one of the ship’s life boats, he served out his duties with his fellow travellers.

A Benedictine Priest, Father Joseph Peruschitz (pictured left) from Scheyern was another priest who showed great courage giving his life for the victims of the Titanic.

To imagine the horror of a sinking ship and to be a source of strength to support those who were lost. These are great acts of heroism.

Annie Kate, taking the trip with a cousin, Patrick Canavan, her cousin, was 16 months older than Annie. He gave is life ensuring that Annie was placed on a life boat. Annie did survive as she became a Catholic Nun taking the name Sister Patrick Joseph Kelly.

The story of Annie and her cousin, Patrick sounds very close to the fictional story of the movie “Titanic” without the romance, of course. Annie (Sister Patrick Joseph Kelly) died in 1969 after giving her life to the service of God and recounting the Titanic.

These are but a few, how tragic was this terrible accident. It should serve as a reminder that man will never become invincible. The Twin Towers were also though to be indestructable.

Jesus commanded the Catholic Church to go to all the nations, teaching them to observe all that he commanded it. Courage is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that all great Saints depended on to do God’s will. What an encouragement to all the faithful to have the courage and faith of Father Thomas Byles and company whose bravery recalls the Lord’s words: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

Of the 2223 passengers on board the Titanic, 1517 perished.

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*BEST OF DTB #57* Reagan? Obama? No comparison.

Posted by John Benko - April 7th, 2013

Ronald Reagan would have been 100 years old today, so it is natural that our current President Barack Obama would be compared to him, right?

Only if the purpose of comparison is contrast.

Reagan was everything Obama isn’t- a man of vision, a man of principle, a man of faith and devotion who loved God, loved his country and had a deep trust in the American spirit.

Reagan’s 49 state landslide reelection in 1984 is all the testament one needs to have at how Reagan did what Obama cannot possibly do.

With a political bent that is equal parts secular humanist socialist progressive-ism and psuedo-muslim fundamentalism (his claims of being a christian notwithstanding), Barack Obama is a tyrant who believes that any ends are justified to remake America in his radical image.

Reagan believed in you and me and believed (rightly so) that government was the cause of much of our economic, social and spriritual dysfunction, not the cure for it.

We miss you Ronnie.

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