BROTHER ANDRÉ: Friend of the Suffering,
Apostle of Saint Joseph, by
Jean-Guy Dubuc, translated from
the French by Robert Prud'homme.
Foreword by Mario Lachapelle,
C.S.C., foreword translated by Andre
Leveille, C.S.C. Ave Maria. 234 pp.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M.,
editor of this publication. He has visited
Montréal's Oratory of St. Joseph, which
Brother André founded.
ON OCTOBER 17, Pope Benedict XVI
will canonize Brother André Bessette,
C.S.C. (1845-1937). In this book,
Father Jean-Guy Dubuc of
the Archdiocese of Montréal
explains why an estimated
one million people prayed
at Brother André's casket
before his funeral and why
more than two million
people each year visit the
world's largest shrine dedicated
to St. Joseph.
Father Dubuc served as
director of communications
at the Oratory of St. Joseph from 1994
to 1999. Father Lachapelle serves as vice
postulator for Brother André's cause.
Alfred Bessette was so frail that he
was baptized the day after his birth in
the province of Québec. He was the
eighth child of a carpenter and his wife,
who had a deep devotion to St. Joseph.
Between 1863 and 1867, Alfred worked
in New Hampshire and Connecticut
factories before returning to Canada. In
1870, the pastor of Saint-Césaire wrote
to the superiors of the Congregation of
the Holy Cross, "I am sending you a
Alfred entered the community at
Montréal's Notre-Dame College, took
the name André and was soon the
porter, a position he held for 40 years.
About 150 young men boarded there.
Soon after St. Joseph was named the
patron of Canada in 1870, sick people
reported being cured by Brother André.
At his urging, a simple St. Joseph chapel
was opened on Mount Royal (opposite
the college) in Montréal in 1904 and
was replaced four years later. Construction
began in 1916 on the crypt of
the present church. Work started on
the upper church eight years later, continued
until 1931, was suspended for
seven years and then resumed. The
church's dome was completed in 1967.
Brother André was beatified in 1982.
Dubuc notes that Brother André,
who liked to laugh and to tell jokes,
"tried to make people see
with their inner eye, that is,
their soul, the intervention
of God in their lives....He
was never long-winded, and
he always used speech and
gestures sparingly. Yet,
everyone seemed to leave
him with rekindled strength
and with a new reason to
In the Foreword, Father
Lachapelle quotes several of
Brother André's sayings:
"There is so little distance between
heaven and earth that God always
hears us. Nothing but a thin veil separates
us from God"; "It is with the
smallest brushes that the artist paints
the best paintings"; "Put yourself in
God's hands; he abandons no one."
According to Father Dubuc, Brother
André always "wanted to lead people to
prayer, to conversion and, ultimately,
This volume includes four pages of
black-and-white photos, a time line
and an index.
You can order BROTHER ANDRÉ: Friend of the Suffering,
Apostle of Saint Joseph from St. Francis Bookstore.
BLESSINGS OF THE ROSARY: Meditations
on the Mysteries, by Dennis J.
Billy, C.Ss.R. Liguori Publishing. 112
Reviewed by DOMINIC LOCOCO, O.F.M.,
a longtime subscription agent for St.
HERE IS a book that may be used for
spiritual reading or in conjunction with
the recitation of the Rosary. In the
words of the late Pope John Paul II, we
need to be reminded of why we pray (or
should pray) the Rosary: "With the
Rosary, the Christian people sit in the
school of Mary and are led to contemplate
the beauty on the face of Christ
and to experience the depths of his
For many centuries, the Rosary has
been the prayer of choice for millions
of Catholics around the world. Especially
today, with widespread media
attention, we hear and read examples
of such devotion.
A few months ago, before the beatification
of Father Jerzy Popieluszko,
his mother, Marianna, recited the
Rosary before thousands of Poles who
came to honor her son. Father Jerzy
was the chaplain of Poland's Solidarity
movement, which was instrumental in
the resistance to Communism. He was
kidnapped and murdered in 1984,
shortly before the regime was defeated.
He lies buried with the rosary given
him by Pope John Paul II.
As Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect
of the Congregation for Saints' Causes,
said in presiding over Father Jerzy's
beatification, "The blood of martyrs is
the seed of Christendom." Here in the
United States, around the same time as
the event in Poland transpired, an
inmate was about to be executed in an
Ohio prison. His final 15 minutes on
this earth were spent praying the
Rosary, asking Our Lady to "Pray for us
sinners, now and at the hour of our
I have prayed the Rosary almost
every day for the last 58 years in religious
life and have a hobby of making
rosaries. Father Billy's book was welcome material in helping
me gain new insights into
the biblical and spiritual
riches in each of the 20
decades of the Rosary he
interprets for us.
His format is easy to follow.
For example, the joyful
mysteries zero in on the
Incarnation, from the
"Annunciation" before the
birth of Jesus to the fifth
decade, "Finding Jesus in
the Temple." After an in-depth study of
each mystery, Father Billy poses reflective
questions to flesh out personal
Part II enlightens the luminous mysteries
(no pun intended). These mysteries
were given to the Church during
the pontificate of John Paul II and cover
much of Christ's public life. When I
first began praying these mysteries, I
wondered why it took so long to
uncover these mysteries and incorporate
them in the Rosary.
The author notes two prophetic
actions in the "Mysteries of Light,"
another name for the luminous mysteries.
One is the "Baptism of Jesus in
the Jordan" that marked the transition
from Jesus' hidden life at Nazareth to
his public life in Galilee and Judea. The
second is the "Institution of the
Eucharist," which gives us a foretaste of
Jesus' presence to the members of his
Body. These mysteries highlight both
the prophetic and the sacramental
nature of Jesus' ministry, which continues
in the lives of his followers.
Even if one prays the Rosary infrequently,
this small book will prove
invaluable as an aid to meditation on
the Gospels and drawing close to Jesus.
You can order BLESSINGS OF THE ROSARY: Meditations
on the Mysteries from St.
TRAVEL AS A POLITICAL ACT, by
Rick Steves. Nation Books/Perseus
Book Group. 209 pp. $16.95.
Reviewed by BARBARA BECKWITH, editor
of this column, managing editor of this
magazine and veteran traveler to more
than 25 countries for business and pleasure.
RICK STEVES'S ENGAGING personality
and "been there, done
that" expertise on travel
have made him incredibly
popular. In other books, TV
series and radio programs,
he has tried to make travel
easier for Americans, encouraged
us to mingle with
"the locals," pointed out
bargains in hotels and
restaurants, and explained
in detail the great art and
architecture in churches
What sets Steves apart from other
travel writers is how articulate he is
about his values. He preaches the value
of humility and traveling simply (one
carry-on bag is all you need). This new
book is not a "preachy political treatise,"
which he admits he tried to avoid.
It is political in the broad sense: "Seeing
how smart people overseas come up
with fresh solutions to the same old
problems makes us more humble, open
to creative solutions, and ready to question
traditional ways of thinking. We
understand how our worldview is both
shaped and limited by our family,
friends, media, and cultural environment.
We become more able to respectfully
coexist with people with different
‘norms' and values."
Travel has undoubtedly shaped
Steves's personal politics. By being open
to what he has seen and the people he
has met, he has allowed his travels to
educate him. He sees travel as bringing
people together, learning others' ways
and giving them more "wiggle room."
Steves cites an Afghani professor in
Kabul who pointed out, "[O]ne third
of the people on this planet eat with
spoons and forks like you, a third of the
people eat with chopsticks and a third
eat with fingers like me. And we're
all just as civilized." His message got
through to Steves, who confesses,
"Eventually eating with my fingers
became quite natural. (I had to be
retrained when I got home.)"
Steves is a practicing Lutheran whose PBS show is sponsored by Bread for the
World, a citizens' group organized to
end world hunger. He wants Americans
to broaden their cultural horizons
and get out of their comfort zones. People
who witness for themselves the
rich/poor gap in the world change.
Americans who circumvent our isolation
by geography and wealth begin
to understand how people from other
countries see us.
Steves goes into the recent lessons
that specific areas of the world have
taught him: Yugoslavia's breakup that
led to tragic wars, with their psychological
and physical wreckage; the new
European Union's struggle with ethnic
diversity; El Salvador and
globalization; Denmark and
its continuing contentment
with socialism, despite high
taxes; Turkey and Morocco
as two examples of secular
Islamic countries; Europe's
"smart" drug policies; and
Iran, "the most surprising
and fascinating country" he
says he's ever visited.
In this book—and in a
recent talk that I and 900
other people (a third of
them sitting on the floor) attended at
the Cincinnati Public Library—Steves
emphasizes the moderate side of Islam
and downplays the threat of terrorism
in other countries.
It was surprising to me to learn that
Steves admits that many times he's
been afraid before a trip, yet he counsels
people to overcome their fears,
especially in the wake of 9/11. He warns
that leaders manipulate fear to distract
His final chapter on homecoming
does get a bit preachy as he challenges
readers: "Find creative ways to humanize
our planet while comfortably nestled
into your workaday home life."
He challenges people to add their own
ideas in a forum developed at www.ricksteves.com/politicalact.
The many four-color pictures, sidebars
and index make this book a complete
For those who want to know how
America fits into this interconnected
new world, read this book. I wish it
had been published before I started
traveling the world.
You can order TRAVEL AS A POLITICAL ACT from St.
DISCERNING THE WILL OF GOD:
An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision
Making, by Timothy M.
Gallagher, O.M.V. Crossroad Publishing
Co. 159 pp. $16.95.
Reviewed by ELIZABETH YANK, a freelance
writer and homeschooling mother
from South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
SINCE I AM a busy mom with six kids
still at home, as much as I would like
to, I can't read all day. With Discerning
the Will of God, however, I
was hard-pressed not to
hide away and bury myself
in this engrossing read.
applicable to everyday life,
the book holds the reader's
attention from the opening
pages because Gallagher
uses real-life examples to
which we can all relate.
Easy to read, simple to
understand yet profound
in meaning, Discerning the
Will of God helps us to prepare ourselves
better to answer life's big questions:
Should I marry this person?
Should I change my job? Am I called to
the religious life? How do I know what
God is calling me to do?
Gallagher walks us through a step-by-step process, equipping us with the
tools we need to make an informed
decision, not just an impulsive stab in
the dark based on emotions.
Even if the questions we
are discerning are not lifechanging,
we can still apply
the same principles to the
question at hand. Gallagher
invites the reader to consider,
"Am I seeking the will
of God or my will? Do I
believe that God has my
best interests at heart? Do I
believe, truly believe, that
God loves me?"
Gallagher also asks the
reader to reflect, "How do I come to a
decision? Do I seek God in the
Eucharist, silence, adoration and Scripture?
Do I seek the advice of a spiritual
advisor? Does he or she confirm my
decision process and final conclusion?
What about my state of mind? Am I
agitated or at peace? Do I write down
all the pros and cons of my decisions?
Does my final decision offer me peace?"
For those struggling with major life-changing
decisions or even small-impact
decisions, Discerning the Will of
God offers the tools to reach decisions
thoughtfully and prayerfully with
God's peace in mind.
THE MIRACLE OF STALAG 8A:
Beauty Beyond the Horror: Olivier
Messiaen and the Quartet for the End
of Time, by John William McMullen.
Bird Brain Publishing. 240 pp.
$24.95, hardcover; $18.95, paperback.
Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a
native Cincinnatian and retired public
AT A PRE-CONCERT LECTURE, the
concertmaster of our local symphony
orchestra said it was not a requirement
for good music that the composer be a
good person. While reading this fictional
biography of Olivier Messiaen, I
wondered if the opposite could also be
true: Could a good, indeed saintly, person
compose music that is not universally
liked or even known?
Ordered to report for military duty
on September 3, 1939, Frenchman
Messiaen arranged for his wife and
young son to board a train
to the Auvergne Province.
Then he visited La Eglise de
la Sainte-Trinite in Paris,
where he was titular organist,
collected his sheet music
and headed for war.
France and Britain had
declared war on Germany,
and every man was called
to duty, even so unlikely a
soldier as this slight, visionimpaired
unit encamped at Metz
for two months, and he was assigned
hard manual labor. Finally, his commanding officer, doubting his ability to
handle a gun, assigned him to teach
music harmony. Only in
his correspondence with
his wife and in the musical
scores secured in his haversack,
along with the Bible
and The Imitation of Christ,
did he find solace.
In January 1940, Messiaen
was transferred to a
medic unit and sent to Verdun,
where he met Corporal
Etienne Pasquier, cellist
of the famed Pasquier Trio.
Pasquier introduced him to
Henri Akoka, clarinetist with the
Orchestre National de la Radio. Akoka,
age 28, a Trotskyite, described Messiaen's
music as "musical revolution" in
agreement with the social revolution he
The Germans attacked France on
May 13, 1940, and the Maginot Line
was quickly breached. The French army
was in chaos and retreated. Troops took
to the road and beheld there the mindless
destruction of war. Walking on
bloody feet, searching for food, smelling
the acrid odor of burning bodies
and buildings, Messiaen, Pasquier and
Akoka surrendered on June 20. France
surrendered on June 25, and German
authorities occupied two thirds of the
The friends were marched 40 miles to
a makeshift compound at Toul where,
despite horrendous living conditions,
Messiaen returned to composing the
piece for solo clarinet he had begun at
Metz. Akoka commented that time signatures
were often missing, and Messiaen
replied, "Music in the future will
have no time." When the clarinetist
practiced, fellow prisoners would deride
the dissonance and the lack of melody
and meter, one calling it "noise."
Three weeks later, the prisoners
were transferred to Gorlitz by cattle
car. A barely conscious Messiaen, weakened
by malnutrition and dysentery,
when placed on a Red Cross medic
stretcher assured his friends he had
"united his sufferings to those of
Released from the hospital, he was
reunited with his friends at Stalag 8A.
When a violinist, Jean le Boulaire,
appeared in their barracks, Messiaen
expanded his composition
to include him.
A friendly German guard
named Brull, a devout
Catholic and music lover,
befriended Messiaen, provided
a quiet space for him
and aided in securing a
violin, cello and upright
piano. The physical makeup
of the trio was now
Admittedly, the Germans
wished to create a good
image by providing cultural programs
for the prison population of 30,000.
Entertainment was provided every Saturday
from 6 to 9 p.m., with the first
hour reserved for classical music. The
acts served as distraction for the hungry,
starving, freezing and depressed
On January 15, 1941, Messiaen introduced
Quartet for the End of Time by
citing Chapter 10 of the Book of the
Apocalypse as its inspiration. At its conclusion,
he said to the 400 people in
attendance, "Never before have I been
listened to with such attention and
Was the piece understood as he
wished—belief that hope transcends
horror; that Christ suffers with us; that
reading the Word we become it? Perhaps
not by all, but certainly for a
fallen-away Catholic agnostic cellist,
an atheist violinist, a Jewish Trotskyite
clarinetist and a mystical, devout
Catholic organist, it was!
Well-researched, the understated narration
and dialogue in this novel allow
the characters to reveal their true selves
in extraordinary circumstances. I recommend
this book for history buffs,
musicians, music lovers and anyone
unfamiliar with world war.
You can orderTHE MIRACLE OF STALAG 8A:
Beauty Beyond the Horror: Olivier
Messiaen and the Quartet for the End
of Time from St. Francis Bookstore.