The chapel of the Generalate was packed on with pilgrims for a festive celebration of the Eucharist in honour of Frater Andreas. Many people had come for the celebration of the 99th anniversary of his death (August 3, 1917). Pastor Frank Lemmens presided and blessed the final resting place of the Venerable Servant of God.
In his word of welcome, Brother Lawrence Obiko said: “Next year is the 100th anniversary and we are already looking forward to it. You could say that the centenary of Brother Andreas van den Boer begins today. It is therefore a special celebration in which we reflect together on the special significance of Brother Andreas for us…”
A prayerful brother
He was a brother of prayer, he lived in God’s presence. We ought to know that the prayer of Brother Andreas continues, today, also for our intentions. Brother Andreas was a brother of the first hour. In him we come close to the core of our charism: why we are brothers, why our lives are at the service of the Gospel, why we dedicate our lives to prayer and works of mercy.
Quick a miracle!
Pastor Lemmens added: we naturally hope that there will be a miracle soon and that we will have, besides Peerke Donders, another Tilburg Blessed One! Charles van Leeuwen, the author of the book Remembering Brother Andreas, spoke about ‘Brother Andreas with the lamp.’ We quote a couple of selections of his reflection:
The brother with the lamp
“A story about Brother Andreas that is little well-known is set during the high tide of the Dommel, the river that flows past the boarding school Ruwenberg and through the city of Den Bosch. In the days of Brother Andreas the Dommel was a fairly unpredictable river that often flooded and created much inconvenience. That was also the case during the winter of 1880. Several days and nights the brothers were busy turning the danger, because their school was threatened by the flood. They worked all out with pumps (which at that time was still done by hand) and by joining forces they put together a temporary dam with sandbags. Brother Andreas was there also, even though as an armchair scholar he was not very suitable for such a heavy labour. ‘He could not work,’ says Brother Germanus, ‘but he was present all nights to light the work with a lamp. He was concerned about everything.” Brother Andreas, who every night is holding up the oil lamp and giving light to his fellow brothers doing their work: that’s an image that has been personally dear to me.
A faithful servant
The brother with the lamp. Vigilant, hardworking, service at close range, prayerfully present. The brother who gives light to his fellow brothers, the teacher who enlightens his students. The brother who lives the Gospel and passes the light of Christ on. When we delve into the biography of Brother Andreas, we come across that image of light quite often. The life of Brother Andreas is a story of light, a story of someone who is tremendously committed in bringing the Gospel into practice and illuminating the lives of others. Certain words of the Gospel we read today fit him like a glove. The call to keep the lamps burning (Lk 12: 35), he lived meticulously. He was a ‘faithful servant’ of the Lord, very attentive in the great and in the small things.
Vigilant and observant
Certain words of the Gospel did receive actual colour and depth in his life. Like the word vigilance. If there was someone who was keen and observant, who completely focused his attention on the Kingdom of God, who laboured to the extreme in order to make a contribution, it had to be Brother Andreas. In his daily work as a teacher and educator at a large school, that sharpness, vigilance and attentiveness was obviously very much in place: the school and the children benefited from it. But of course there was more to it than vigilance. The desire of Brother Andreas and his fellow brothers was all about making the call of Jesus in their school concrete: “let the children come to me, do not hinder them (Lk 18: 16).” They lived for the ideal to properly equip the children in every way: with good teaching, a balanced education and the best possible religious instruction. No child was excluded: poor kids, rich kids, urban children, rural children, orphans, disabled children, children in overseas territories: “do not hinder them, let them come to me,” that Gospel verse reverberated deep in the heart of Brother Andreas and his fellow brothers.
The brother holding the lamp and enlightening others: this year of the centenary celebration the spotlights are focused on him. But more importantly than the spotlights are the little lights that we will ignite this year for Brother Andreas.