Opening God’s Door

John Grondelski recommends Joel Schorn’s God’s Doorkeepers/Padre Pio, Solanus Casey and Andre Bessette.



By Joel R. Schorn

Servant Books, 2006

162 pages, $12.99

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Porter had become a vestigial minor order when Pope Paul VI abolished it in 1973. Considered as a critical function, however, doorkeepers have always been important. They keep the Church’s enemies out while opening the doors of Divine Mercy to those in need of it.

That’s what the three men featured in this book by Joel Schorn did best: bring Christ’s healing mercy to needy men and women.

Andre Bessette was a Holy Cross brother who served as a porter at his congregation’s house in Montreal. Promoting the devotion to St. Joseph, Brother Andre was the inspiration and driving force behind St. Joseph’s Oratory, the shrine that graces Montreal’s skyline. Solanus Casey was a Capuchin priest who exercised his ministry in Detroit and New York. Padre Pio, also a Capuchin, was famed for his ministry as a confessor as well as for bearing the stigmata.

This book is a spiritual biography of the three, focusing on their outreach to those who suffered, physically and spiritually. Their focus on God’s mercy was a key attribute in their lives. Solanus Casey counseled people: “God knows best and ... we can hardly do better than not only being resigned to whatever God permits but even beforehand to thank him for his mercifully loving designs.”

Summarizing Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte’s remarks on the centennial of St. Joseph’s Oratory in 2004, Schorn notes that “what comes through these words, so expressive of the history of the Oratory, is mercy. God’s mercy is present and available there. His concern can be felt through the fatherly care of St. Joseph and Brother Andre.”

And like St. Paul, Padre Pio “was all things to all people. Where tenderness was needed, it flowed out from him. Where help and prompting were required, they were given. Where bracing and strengthening were called for, they were provided.” Nor did Padre Pio forget about the corporal works of mercy while focusing on the spiritual: He was instrumental in establishing a hospital near his monastery.

One is also struck by all three men’s humble availability. Bessette spent hours on end in his little booth. Casey logged hours in the friary front parlor. Padre Pio was a fixture in the confessional. Bessette’s ministry was closely connected with physical healing, as the tower of abandoned crutches at St. Joseph’s Oratory attests.

In all three cases, these men were accessible. You didn’t need appointments to see them, nor in making themselves available did they count their own convenience. Casey is a good illustration: “Solanus never seemed to lose patience under the crush of visitors, despite the long hours he kept. And his patience spawned patience in the people waiting to see him. They knew that he had time for them, and he treated each as if he or she were the most important person in the world.”

Telling three stories in tandem can be a challenge: Just as the reader gets into one, the book picks up with another. While the potential for confusion is there Schorn manages, like a good juggler, to keep all three balls in the air and the reader entertained. Do note, however, that this book is more a spiritual biography of all three men, rather than an in-depth study of any of them.

This well-written, easy-flowing book is a good way to get to know these doorkeepers better, because they “open[ed] the doors to God’s presence. In walking through those doors, we can find healing and perhaps even become saints ourselves.”

John M. Grondelski writes from

Washington, D.C.