When I first met Br. Michael he was doing some work in the Bishop’s office. I was a SOLT lay member and Fr. Flanagan’s chauffeur for the summer. Fr. Jim and I were sitting at an old, rustic, dining room table chatting with Bishop Jerome Hastrich… the Ordinary of the missionary Diocese of Gallup, NM. Little did I know that this cheerful brother was the Bishop’s right-hand-man!
Upon Bishop Hastrich’s death, for some strange reason, the new bishop decided to canonically suppress Br. Michael’s community. Fr. Flanagan rescued Br. Michael, bringing him into SOLT and giving him, not only a new life… but a new name as well; Br. Michael of The Precious Blood.
What many people in SOLT never knew about this truly humble brother was that he himself was a co-founder of a Religious Congregation… The Brothers of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bishop Hastrich was concerned about his priests living alone in the desert and he decided to establish a community of Brothers who could be companions and helpers for his priests. Br. Michael was the first to respond to the Bishop’s advertisement announcing the foundation of the new community.
When Brother met with Bishop Hastrich in Penn Station, NYC, he asked the holy Bishop, “How many members are there in the new community?” Bishop Hastrich responded, “One… YOU!” Brother Michael went on to found the community with Bishop Hastrich and became the first Superior General and the first Novice Master of The Brothers of Our Lady of Guadalupe (a Religious Congregation with Vows).
Most people with this kind of stellar resume, coming into a new community (SOLT), would make sure that everyone knew about their impressive background. But that was not the good brother’s way. His was the way of humility… Our Lady’s way! I had a number of mission assignments with Brother and not once, in conversations with me or with others, did he exploit this “treasure trove” of credentials.
Br. Michael was so well formed as a religious that, due to the depth of his interior life, he was practically “invisible”… or to put it another way; he was simple and transparent… and this is what made him such a unique and wonderful brother. Very often, due to his appearance, Brother was completely misunderstood and perceived as being something he certainly was not! Because he was legally blind, he walked slowly and very deliberately. And because of his bleeding disorder, he held his head up high. Put these 2 traits together and what do you have? A “Primadonna”! Throw in an “upside-down-smile”, the result of a mini-stroke, and what do you get… a “sour-puss” Primadonna! But the minute you engaged him, you would immediately discover that he was very cheerful, humble, and supremely friendly.
Br. Michael’s sufferings were never ending… and this is what made him the truly special brother that he was. In 3rd world mission, he was incomparable. He would live anywhere, sleep on any sort of a bed, eat anything put in front of him, and travel great distances without a single word of complaint. In friendship, he was the same Br. Michael with the humblest campesino or the wealthiest benefactor. His deep understanding of the importance of balance and common sense in religious life was something all of us in SOLT can learn from (I know that I am still learning from his example!). Br. Michael was one of Our Lady’s gifts to her society… and our wise and discerning Founder saw that right from the start.
Submitted by Fr. Larry Tucker, SOLT