A campaign is to be launched to canonise a monk who dedicated his life to taking disabled people to Lourdes.
A Mass celebrated at Our Lady of Victories Church in Kensington, London, will mark the formal establishment of a committee to promote the cause for sainthood of Brother Michael Strode, the founder the Hosanna House and Children’s Pilgrimage Trust (HCPT).
A former doctor who eventually became a Cistercian monk of Caldey Abbey, Pembrokeshire, Wales, Brother Micha\el died on December 27, 2019, at the age of 96 after spending 65 years organising pilgrimages to Lourdes for disabled people.
Those who knew him are convinced he is a saint.
The Mass next Tuesday, which will be celebrated by Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh, the president of the HCPT, will coincide with the launch of a website to further his cause as well as an appeal for testimonials to support it.
Richard King, chairman of Committee for Brother Michael’s Cause, said: “In his devotion to the care of disabled children and adults, Brother Michael was living out his love of humanity, firmly rooted in his deep spiritual life.
“If the cause succeeds, a modern-day saint would be a tremendous example of love and service for the Catholic Church in Britain.”
Fr Daniel van Santvoort, the Abbot of Caldey, said that as a monk, Brother Michael’s “existence became a life sacrificed to God, to his brothers, to all his friends and family in a life of silence, prayer, service and dedication”.
He said: “This step certainly did not change him, in fact, it was grace at work in him that brought out his unique humanity for everyone to see – the beam of laughter and joy in his eyes, his ability to welcome life in a pure, childlike way, and a great sense of fun that is almost inimitable.”
Born in 1923, Michael Strode became a Catholic in 1945. He trained as a doctor and in 1953
he was appointed to Chailey Heritage, a hospital school for disabled children in Sussex, where he remained until his retirement in 1988.
In 1956 he founded the charity now known as HCPT. He insisted that disabled children be accommodated not in austere hospitals but in small ‘family’ groups in hotels, so they could live their week (a “holiday with Our Lady”) with their helpers.
It was a concept that in the 1970s was extended to disabled adults, an approach copied by many other pilgrimages.
In 1991 Brother Michael joined the island community of Cistercian monks at Caldey and lived a monastic life of prayer until in 2016 his health declined and he spent his last years at Nazareth House, Cardiff.
Next year, the relics of St Bernadette, the visionary who saw apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in 1858, will tour the major Catholic cathedrals and churches of England, Scotland and Wales.
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