Friday, October 15, 2010
Brother André and the Million Person Funeral
Brother André will become Saint André this Sunday. The press in Canada is all agog over this event. Here's an old video from 1982 relating a bit of history.
Almost every article and TV show mentions the million people who were present at Brother André's funeral. Clearly there were not one million people at the funeral as the CBC newsreels from that time clearly shows only a few thousand at most. Other media reports say that one million people filed past Brother André's coffin and this is a more reasonable claim.
Brother André died just after midnight on January 6, 1937. This is the middle of winter in Canada. His body was prepared and laid in a coffin at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. You can see pictures of him lying in state by following the link to the CBC archives. The funeral was held on January 12, 1937.
Let's assume that the body was ready for viewing at noon on January 6th and remained on view until noon on the day before the funeral. According to press reports, St. Joseph's Oratory was open 24 hours a day so that people could pay their respects. That means that 1,000,000 people (one third of the population of Quebec and far more than the entire population of Monteal) filed past the coffin in 5 days (120 hours). That means a constant stream of people every single minute over five days moving at a speed of about 2 Km/hr (assuming 0.5 m between people). That's a slow walking pace so it's perfectly feasible that one million people could have climbed up to St. Joseph's Oratory in the middle of a Montreal winter to view Brother André's body.
Feasible, but not very likely. Perhaps it was a miracle?