A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


The Saint & The Blessed Brother From Montreal
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

At our all-classes reunion two weeks ago at the former campus of St. Ed’s High School in Austin, Texas and now the campus of St. Edward’s University, I was chatting with my former classmate James Kulleck. He works for NASA in the Mars Rover Program. Even in 1961, when I last saw him, we all called him “The Brain”.

We were having a pleasant exchange of information of our lives when this man, obviously a Brother of Holy Cross, sauntered by us with a smile that was like red to a bull. I could have sworn that such was the grace of his saunter that he may have been levitating. He stopped, introduced himself, “I am Brother Thomas Frey CSC how are you all?” His voice was quiet, melodious and his accent was not Texan. He looked at us straight on with that smile of his and I felt as if he was vacuuming my mind. I felt that no matter what I told him of myself he already knew. We chatted. He told us he had been in California for many years and that he had taught physics. He told us he lived on the other side of the campus at Brother Vincent Pieau Assisted Living Facility. It is where many of the elderly brothers who may be on wheelchairs or be physically impaired in other ways reside at St. Edward’s University. He told us that everybody always noticed his smile but also his receding hairline. He said all this with a soothing voice that made me think the man could have had a soaring career in a midnight FM radio station. He then gave James Kulleck and me little metal medals.

Luckily when I looked at them I knew that they were of Brother Andre CSC who is perhaps, after the founder of the Congregation of the Holy Cross (priests, brothers and nuns), Blessed Father Basil Anthony-Marie Moreau, CSC in Le Mans in 1837, the most famous in CSC history. For me it had a nice connection with my life in Canada. Blessed Brother Andre, (a pre-sainthood in process appellation), in picture below right, was born Alfred Bessette in a town near Montreal in 1845. By the time he died in 1937 he was revered in French Canada and credited with thousands of miraculous healings.

That very day when having lunch at St Joseph’s Hall with my former religion teacher and saxophone instructor, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC I had picked up a little brochure on Brother Andre. I decided to see if Brother Thomas Frey could be challenged and lose his cool so I began, “Ah, yes! Brother Andre who was considered a quack by many.” Brother Thomas kept his smile as I told the story.

At one time a woman in Montreal was dying of a blood hemorrhage and her husband was desperate. She instructed him to fetch Brother Andre. Her husband insisted that he would then be the laughingstock of the city when people found out he had summoned the man of the healing powers. When the woman got worse the man relented and went to Brother Andre’s residence and begged the man to accompany him back. Brother Andre calmly told the distraught man, “Go back to your wife. She is well now.” And so she was.

Brother Thomas lingered for a while and then he walked off in the direction of Brother Vincent's. Could it have been the late afternoon sun which as a backlight gave the man a halo? I watched him until he disappeared.

Brother Thomas (78) remained in my mind for the rest of the day. I had been impressed by his calm peace with himself and the world. Later that evening when I ran into Brother Edwin I asked him why it was that the healthy looking Brother Thomas lived at Brother Vincent's. Brother Edwin answered, “He administers to the brothers in his care.”

It would seem that both brothers are blessed but only one was blessed with more hair.


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