A Testimony by Br. André Blanchette
When I made my confirmation, I thought that I had done everything wrong. I didn’t pick a patron saint, I was only eleven, and it wasn’t even the bishop who celebrated the sacrament, but a priest. But on that Thursday evening, on what seemed a normal school day, God touched my soul.
I can’t explain how or why, but something happened. I was still in the church after the celebration when the catechist randomly asked me, “Hey André, what will you do when you grow up?”
I answered, without thinking about it, “I’m going to be a priest.”
Looking back, I ask myself, where did that come from? At that moment, it meant it, but I had never seriously thought of it before, nor later was I conscious of it when I took my first steps in following Christ more closely. But the Holy Spirit was in me, and he had a dream for me.
I grew up in Quebec City, in a family for which I cannot be sufficiently grateful. It was a normal family, where I would get in a fight every day with one of my three siblings, where my mom had to tell us a thousand times to stop playing video games when lunch was ready, and where Sunday Mass was definitively not my favorite activity of the week. Yet, I cannot compare what I received from them. They taught me the value of responsibility, honesty, and hard work. They gave me the joy and the peace of knowing that I was loved and that I could always go to bed reconciled, whatever happened that day. They especially transmitted to me a familiarity with God that was both spontaneous and profound, a Christianity that meant not rigidity but rather kindness, dialogue, and service.
This Christian atmosphere had become so natural, that when I started to go to school and I was getting to know the friends I was making, I realized that a gulf separated our worlds. My schoolmates also noticed it. To make fun of me, they would call me, “André, le cure” (André, the priest), which didn’t help me in wanting to be a priest! Until I started seriously following my vocation, I had never seriously thought about becoming a priest.
When I was about ten, noticing how our pastor was dedicated and happy, I thought for the first time that the priesthood could be a valid option, yet without making the next step valid for me. I also knew a few priests of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Kenneth Leblanc, Fr. Louis de Vaugelas, and others, who built on the foundation that my parents had laid. I admired their vitality, joy, and their zeal, though it didn’t come to my mind that it could be also for me… until God decided it was time.
I was twelve. I had been in ECYD for a year, and I loved going to retreats with the priests of the Legionaries of Christ. That summer, Fr. Louis invited me to attend the summer discernment program at the apostolic school that we had in Cornwall, Ontario. I enjoyed visiting that high school seminary because I found the same atmosphere that I was breathing in my family, but in boys my age.
There it was ok both to play hockey and to pray. Yet I knew I couldn’t be one of them. My mom would never let me go to a boarding school, even less in Ontario! I still decided to give it a try… just to make sure. And that was enough for God to seduce me. I don’t know what happened that summer, but just as I was sincere right after my confirmation about wanting to be a priest, I was convinced at the end of that summer that God was calling me to dedicate my whole life to him, as a Legionary of Christ.
And so, it happened. It was the beginning of a great adventure with him.
I feel so undeserving to have been able to grow in his presence and to have received much more than I could have ever imagined. He took me to live on three different continents, taught me other three languages, made me know beautiful families from around the world, gave me friends who share the same love for him, and brought to light aspects of my personality that I would have never thought I had.
He made me dream about becoming a priest and about being an instrument of his presence. But more importantly, he showed me how uniquely and disproportionately he loves me. And now, as I get closer to my ordination, I cannot but feel nervous. But I feel him excited because he sees his dream becoming reality.