A Tribute to Brother Hugh MacIsaac (+July 11, 1979)

(Note: This was written on the occasion of the death of Brother Hugh, M.I.C.M., one of the founding members of our Order, who went to his reward on July 11, 1979. The piece introduced From the Housetops No. 18, which featured the life of Saint John Bosco. Brother Hugh was a real giant of a man who left a deep impression on many souls, and was an intrepid leader at Saint Benedict Center during very difficult times. Brother Francis loved him deeply, and has cherished his memory all these years. We thought it fitting, on the thirtieth anniversary of Brother Hugh’s death, to publish this small tribute on our web site. It is especially so inasmuch as its author is now very close to entering eternity himself, where, we hope, he will join his old confrere in beatitude.)

The great apostle of youth in modern times, Saint John Bosco, whose inspiring and most exciting story is the feature of this issue, may be styled “The Saint of Enthusiasm.” But as I present the breathtaking epic to be narrated in the following pages, it is my sad duty to announce to our readers the death of another apostle of enthusiasm, our Superior, Brother Hugh MacIsaac, M.I.C.M., whose last cherished project on earth was to plan this very issue of our magazine, From the Housetops.

Brother Hugh is the one responsible, after God and our protectress in heaven, the Immaculate Mary, for the restoration of this magazine after twenty-five years of interruption; an interruption caused by the Liberal forces within the Church — the very forces that now seem so successful in effecting the demolition of faith and tradition.

Brother Hugh was also our most effective leader in our apostolate to bring the message of faith to all our cities and towns throughout the United States. One wonders how many hundreds, or even thousands, were waiting to meet him on his departure from this vale of tears in the early morning of July 11th of this year — souls who might owe their eternal salvation to the loving and enthusiastic challenge given to them by Brother Hugh during his long apostate of over thirty years.

“When I go to heaven,” he said recently with his characteristic humor, “after I meet the Holy Family and my patron saint, I’ll ask to see Henry.” Henry was an industrial magnate in Chicago whom Brother Hugh met and sent back to the sacraments a few days before Henry went unexpectedly to meet his Creator.

Another person I am sure was there to welcome him is Professor Augusto Bersani, a leader of the Waldensians [also called the Waldenses]. Brother Hugh labored “with the patience of Job” for twenty-five long years before achieving the conversion of this brilliant man who somehow had wandered into the poisoned pastures of heresy. Professor Bersani finally sent for a priest on his deathbed, and made his peace with God.

I would like to bet that Brother Hugh holds the record for the number of miles on this great country’s ways and byways that he traveled on his own two feet, and also for the number of persons in all walks of life that he confronted with the message of salvation “eyeball to eyeball” (to use one of his favorite expressions) in, one might almost say, every city and town of the United States.

The Waldensian conversion forms another bond with the Italian apostle of enthusiasm, Don Bosco, the hero of this volume. For Saint John Bosco also labored for the souls of the Waldensians in northern Italy.

And another bond that may be mentioned here is Saint John Bosco’s famous concern for the English-speaking world, the United States in particular. We have always known that in aiming at the conversion of America, we could count on the patronage of Don Bosco; now he will be assisted by his humble devotee, Brother Hugh, a Slave of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

We have been referring to that shining virtue common to these two Catholic apostles under the name of “enthusiasm.” But on the supernatural plane, that virtue should be called zeal.

The whole world has been talking about the fiery zeal of Saint John Bosco, and we feel confident that the world will one day be talking about the fiery zeal of our Brother Hugh.

And it is through such zeal, which we think will henceforth become infectious, that we hope to convert America.

Who is the happiest man? He who loves God most.
— Brother Hugh, M.I.C.M.