Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York greets Pope Francis during his audience with cardinals March 15 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York greets Pope Francis during his audience with cardinals March 15 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

He’s a rockstar, literally bigger than life. His red cassock glows with the love of the Church. He’s a small town boy made good, real good, and this year he sat down with one-hundred and fourteen other cardinals to elect a new pope after Benedict XVI abdicated due to poor health, AND, he was elected president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.

"Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother, Timothy Cardinal Dolan," by Bob Dolan. Available through Tau Publishing.
“Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother, Timothy Cardinal Dolan,” by Bob Dolan. Available through Tau Publishing.

No mean feat.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in February of 2009 and his charismatic manner and indefatigable sense of humor have put him squarely in the public’s eye. His brother, Bob, took it upon himself to define the Cardinal for the rest of us with his book, “Life Lessons from My Life with my Brother, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.”

I understand that the book arrived in 2011 and that some of you may have already read it, but I just got hold of it so now I’m doing the review!

Like Lincoln in the log cabin, Cardinal Dolan’s beginnings were normal, lower middle class with a father who worked hard for his family and a mother who guided them through their years. Bob describes his brother as joyful and dedicated. As a child, Timothy held Mass once-a-week in the Dolan household, not particularly valid at the time, but a portent of things to come. I remember my son doing this and expected him to become a priest, and he almost did, but marriage got to him first!

Timothy’s teachers at Holy Infant grade school saw in him that special light and they did everything they could to support him. He once told his grandmother that he liked sitting in the front pew so he could be close to the priest because, he said, “I want to be him when I grow up.” Of course, Bob, the Lesser, told his grandmother, pointing at the usher taking the collection, “I want to be him when I grow up.”

Such is the differences between brothers.

As Timothy Dolan moved from parish priest to bishop to archbishop and finally to Cardinal, a mere heartbeat or two or three or more from the papacy, Brother Bob and family learned lessons about the Church and Christ that no one could deliver in the close, intimate way that the big brother in red could.

The book is a series of conversations and events between Bob and his big brother covering things like: The Joy of Grief, Where There’s Humor, There’s Hope, Embrace the Cross, The P-Word, the Beauty of Silence, and If it’s Not True, it Ought to Be!

Through it all, humor exudes. Once asked on a television show by a viewer if he ever gets sad or depressed. Cardinal Dolan answered, “Yes, every time I get on the scale!” His way of handling grief says quite a bit about the man in red. He said that we mourn because we will miss a loved one who has died, therefore, that loved one meant a great deal to us. Therefore further, we should find gratitude in grief that the Lord placed such a person in our lives.

Dolan taught his brother and family, that humor is a way to share in our imperfections, taking the Lord seriously, taking the Faith seriously, but never ourselves.

Can anyone guess what the “P” word is? Not penance, though Cardinal Dolan is big on our facing sinfulness and striving through penance to achieve a more holy life. Nope. The “P” word is “pope.” Once Dolan was elevated, speculation ran rampant when Benedict XVI abdicated but Cardinal Dolan wouldn’t hear of any such speculation about him because his humility would not allow him.

Dolan’s approach to miracles, artifacts, and special things like the Shroud of Turin is interesting. Of them, he says, “Se non e vero e ben trovato,” an old Italian saying that roughly translates to “If it’s not true, it ought to be.” Delightfully profound, Dolan claims that there are always going to be things we can’t explain that the Faith will produce but that our belief in them always carries a power that can convert others; a good approach, especially in today’s miasma of relativism.

The book is filled with photographs of Cardinal Dolan and his family, and even though Bob took most of them, there are a couple of him with his big brother.

Published by local Tau Publishing, a great read for all.