Friday, November 25, 2011

Life Lessons by Bob Dolan

"Realize this: joy is not pleasure! The secret to real and true joy is to be at every moment of our lives convinced of God's love for us and to bask in it and to be grateful for it and then to return that love to Him. When we put our lives in God's hands, when we have absolute faith and hope in Jesus, then we will live a life of immense joy."

~Archbishop Timothy Dolan, from Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother, Archbishop Timothy Dolan by Bob Dolan

My birthday is coming up this week and for a gift I only wanted one thing-a reliquary to properly contain my St. Margaret Mary relic. There is only one place in Milwaukee that carries reliquaries, and that is Stemper's Religious Goods. So, my husband told me to go and purchase one for myself for my gift. As I arrived at the counter to pay for the reliquary, I spied Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother, Archbishop Timothy Dolan by Bob Dolan, on the counter. I had heard good things about the book so I thought, why not pick it up, too, as an extra birthday present to myself. Fr. John Hemsing, the new rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary was behind me in line and commented that he was also beginning to read the book so I was grateful to know that I was in good company in my reading preference. Even better, the manager at Stemper's mentioned that he had some autographed copies in stock and found one for me. Buying the book was a good decision.

It's rare day that passes without part of it being spent with my face buried in a book, but despite that fact, there aren't many books that I am able I finish in one sitting. Bob Dolan's Life Lessons from my Life with my Brother, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, was one of those books that I completed in one day, and I didn't exactly whip through it, either. Instead, I found myself frequently stopping to ponder what I had read and to put it in perspective with my own life. In a word, the book was excellent!

It's no secret to Imprisoned in my Bones readers that I am a huge Archbishop Dolan fan. I've practically written about him in every other post for the past two and half years! In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to find one person who isn't an Archbishop Dolan fan, after all, to know him, or even to know of him, is to love him.

Everyone who is familiar with Archbishop Dolan has got great stories to tell about him. My own favorite was the phone call that was placed to our house on the eve of my daughter Mary's First Communion. Although that was four years ago, I am kicking myself to this day that I didn't ask who was calling when I answered the phone and heard a man ask to speak with Mary. Had I known who it was, I would have lingered in conversation with him for a while before handing the phone over to my daughter. I suppose it's lucky for the Archbishop that I didn't know it was him and he was spared my endless prattling. Instead, I simply handed the phone to Mary and when the call was finished asked her who it was. Her matter-of-fact tone stunned me. "It was Archbishop Dolan calling to congratulate me on my First Communion," as if he had called our house every day!

And I have no idea how in the world my family's name was placed on Archbishop Dolan's Christmas card list, but each year when his wonderful card comes in the mail, I frame it and leave it out for the remainder of the year so that I can enjoy it again and again. Archbishop Dolan is a spiritual hero to be sure, one whose touch through the smallest action can have the power to change your life for the better.

So just imagine what it must be like to have known Archbishop Dolan for your entire life, to have grown up with him and lived with him and to share genes with him! Bob Dolan has said that he is the only one who could write this book from his viewpoint, and of course that's exactly right. Nobody knows Archbishop Dolan like his brother does. The book alternates between important life events for the Archbishop and how those events have impacted his brother, Bob, and faith lessons that Archbishop Dolan has shared with his brother over the years.

I found the book to be easy to read and deeply touching as it was quite evident throughout that Bob Dolan has a deep love and respect for his brother. The personal stories were written with so much love that I couldn't help but feel warmed inside as I read them. It was clear that Bob Dolan finds it challenging to share his brother with the world despite the fact that his brother's place in the Church has brought Bob to share in his joy in some of the most fascinating places and at the most dramatic events such as his installation Mass as Archbishop of New York.

Tender, too, were the sections where Bob interviews his brother about many of the questions and concerns that average Catholics have about their faith. The author writes in such a way as to make the reader feel that even his or her biggest faith questions are normal, but with the wise words from the stories that Archbishop Dolan tells, we are all lifted up to a desire to live our faith better, to become living saints. Bob speaks about how part of his brother's appeal comes from his self-deprecating humor, but it is clear that the author has some self-deprecating humor of his own, especially concerning Jameson and beer!

I absolutely loved Life Lessons! The value of the words and ideals, the example of the loving relationship between the Dolan brothers, and the glory of living the Catholic faith that is contained within this book are lessons that will remain with me for a long time.


  1. Love the top quote. Also love the Archbishop calling your daughter and probably many others to congratulate them on their first communions.

  2. Anne,
    It says a lot about him that he took the time to call Mary - it shows both a loving heart and a humble nature. May God bless him :)