Alfred Bessette, now twelve, went to live in his uncle Timothée Nadeau family in Saint-Césaire. While there, he attended catechetical classes taught by Fr. André Provençal who inspired devotion to St. Joseph. Alfred Bessette received his first Communion in 1857 and in June 1858 he was Confirmed by Bishop Jean-Charles Prince. In the photograph we see Alfred after his First Communion.
"Even in his youth, ... [Alfred] practiced severe penances. His aunt, Madame Nadeau, several times had to take away instruments of mortification from the boy. A leather belt pierced with tacks and worn around the waist, an iron chain, and sleeping on the floor were all penances that his poor aunt had to forbid for fear of his health. Little Alfred never disobeyed; when he was told not to practice one penance, he simply adopted another. Some may think these penances were just childish excess which would fade away with maturity, but they continued throughout his lifetime, making him a truly mortified religious." (Catholicism.org/Blessed Brother André of Saint Joseph)
"During the canonical proceedings for his cause, Father Henri Bergeron, C.S.C., related a comment made to him by Brother Andrés sister: 'Ah, if you only knew my brother in his youth! On Sunday he passed the greater part of the afternoon in the church.' 'We should not quickly pass over this statement without reflection. Sunday was probably the only day of the week on which the boy had no assigned chores. It was most likely the only time he had to play with other children in the village, but Alfred chose to stay in prayer for 'the greater part of the afternoon'. This is truly heroic in a child." (Website/Devotion & Prayers: Blessed Brother André of Saint Joseph by Padre Seraphim)
At Saint Césaire, the Nadeau family had five children and one on the way and this meant another mouth to feed. They made a living by farming and Alfred had to do his share of work. This was difficult for him due to his poor health caused by poor indigestion. At age 14 the Nadeau family sent him to school but due to the cost of education and André sickness which prevented him from attending regularly, it came shortly to an end. He could barely write his name and slowly read printed text. Although Timothée was well to do, he didn't have much use for education. He was intent on making his children and his adopted son hard working and sturdy individuals able to make a living.
Louis Oimet, the mayor of Saint Césaire, heard that Alfred's uncle was making life too difficult for the boy so he took him to his home to work for him. Mr. Oimet, as related by his daughter, tell the following:
"I had him drive
the horses from time to time. He seemed to be suffering from discomfort.
" ' Alfred, are you sick?', I asked him.
" 'No!' he answered.
"At the end of the evening, I used to send him to feed the horses. He delayed in coming back. What was he doing? Every night it was the same story. Once I decided to go and find out what was going on. He had fastened a cross on the beam in the hayloft; he was kneeling and praying. That happened on several occasions. I told the parish priest about it and he replied, 'Bring him over!' Father Proveçal inquired about Alfred's discomfort while driving the horses. Alfred had been wearing an iron chain around his waist." (Laurent Boucher, CSC. Bother Andre, St. Joseph Oratory, p. 25)