THE REVENGE VISITED UPON BROTHER ANDRE BESSETTE
The Holy Cross Brothers - the religious order to which Little Brother Andre belonged - were often asked by families to prepare a dead body for burial. It may sound an odd practice to us, that a brother in a black cassock would do something that was very murky, and you and I may beg to know if there were no undertakers at the time of the latter part of the 1800s. Indeed there were undertakers, but many of the Catholic folk could not afford it, or they were so pious that they only wanted holy hands to clean their loved one after his or her demise.
A man who lived near Brother Andre had been very devoted to the doorman, and he asked Brother Andre to promise that in the event of his death, Brother Andre would prepare his body for death.
The time came when the man went to God. He died in the morning. His wife was anxious that he be prepared for death as soon as possible, and when Brother Andre said he could not come until late afternoon, his wife objected because she said rigor mortis was about to set in. But Brother Andre consoled her with, "There will still be time this evening."
When Brother Andre was finally able to break away from his many duties at the college, he entered the dead man's house to find that the body was stretched out on a white sheet. Andre began "the toilette", and when he had to take the dead man in his arms, he saw the head change position, and he beheld that the body was just getting hard, like the man had just died that minute. "I believe he waited for me to lay him out," Brother Andre later reflected.
That night, Brother Andre could not get a minute of sleep. On the night after Andre had been like a modern-day Tobit and prepared a body for burial; he was pestered by the demonic. Malevolent noises were heard, his personal possessions would move and clatter about. As in the life of Padre Pio, a hideous black cat would appear out of nowhere - which was the devil taking the guise of a feline foe - and the devil in black fur would stalk Andre. "The devil does not like me to do these good works. He is trying to frighten me," was Brother Andre's explanation.
Unlike Padre Pio, however, Brother Andre developed something of a a fear of cats.
What strikes me and even shocks me a little is that such scare tactics of the satanic were visited on Brother Andre after he had performed the good and holy work of preparing the corpse of a Catholic for burial. The satanic wanted to intimidate Brother Andre from ever doing "the toilette" of a dead person again, which goes to show that preparing the dead for burial is so holy a good work it invites certain demonic revenge.
There is also the fact that Brother Andre was the only one of the brothers who was singled out for such tactics as portentous noises, clattering of objects and the evil one in fur charging at him. Brother Andre was a living saint, a miracle worker, and when he prepared a dead body, that body became a relic, and were the satanic to cause Brother Andre to suspend his holy work of preparing a body, they would in effect be preventing the creation of a relic.
* * *
A book that informed this post was, Alden Hatch's The Miracle of the Mountain.