Then, too, there was
Brother Florian, "Brother Flo" to all at Notre Dame. He was a
lovable old rascal whose pompous bearing was a quiet imitation of Father
Cavanaugh's gracious gait. He did it quite well, too, except that he had
sore feet. "Flo" was a picture of repose. His deep booming
voice, and the sense of authority he could assume when strangers were
around, created a respect Brother Florian relished to an incredible
He was always doing
little favors for students and priests. He wanted their good-will. He
generally expected some slight remuneration for all this courtesy, and
usually got it. When the Chicago priests made their retreat here, "Flo"
saw to it that each of them got the special dishes they needed or
craved, but he was always well repaid for his pains.
For years "Flo"
was the porter at the Main Building. It was his general duty to meet
visitors. He enjoyed the thrill of extending hospitality. It is said
that one day a cleric climbed the steps accompanied by a young man. The
cleric had a bit of purple showing beneath his collar and announced
himself as Bishop White. "Flo" lowered himself to the floor -
it was not an easy feat for a man of his weight - kissed the Bishop's
ring, and, wreathed in smiles, conducted Bishop White to the Bishop's
suite. As Brother Florian was about to take his leave, the Bishop
thanked him very cordially and, pointing to the young man, he added:
"By the way, Brother, this is my son!" For a moment "Flo"
was flabbergasted. It dawned on him that he had kissed the ring of a
Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Asking about the incident later, some
one said: "Did you shake hands with the boy?" "My God, I
After the University
had acquired several hundred artistic masterpieces, they were lodged in
the upper rooms of the new library. On Sunday afternoons the gallery was
open to the general public. "Flo" was deputed to conduct a
"tour" for any visitors who showed up. Summed up, his remarks
on these occasions constituted the most entertaining list of
inaccuracies imaginable. From Sunday to Sunday, the stories would change
and the value of the pictures would rise astronomically. "Flo"
had an habitual disregard for fact which really hurt no one but which
achieved the one effect that he thought desirable: "These people
must realize that they are seeing something of immense value."
On one occasion Brother
Florian had in tow, among others, a young student who was already rather
well acquainted with the gallery. This student, pointing to a picture at
the end of the gallery, remarked : "That's Bishop England."
"Pshaw, boy, that's not Bishop England!" "Yes, it is,
Brother!" "I tell you that's not Bishop England!" As they
approached the picture, the student was able to read the label on the
picture and once again asserted: "Brother, that's Bishop
England!" Then, instead of looking at the label, "Flo"
ran his hand over the profile of the venerable prelate, and exclaimed:
"Darned if it ain't!"
On hot days during the
summer, Brother found it rather trying to conduct a crowd through the
gallery. Instead, he installed himself at the circular desk in the
lobby, a handkerchief stuffed around his collar, and in his hand a large
palm-leaf fan which he slowly moved back and forth. If anyone came in to
see the pictures, Brother boomed: "Stairs to the left if you want
to see the pictures." On such occasions, after the gallery was
closed for the evening, "Flo" would find his way back to the
Main Building. If there was anyone on the front porch, he climbed up,
heavy-footed and worn, and remarked with an expression of utter
exhaustion: "Good Lord, a hundred and ninety-three of 'em. Walk and
talk, walk and talk; I'm worn out."
to create the impression that he was overworked and unwell as the result
of his labors. In reality, he was well-fed and healthy. The students
knew, for instance, that "Flo" always ate his big meals in
quasi-secrecy. He sat down at table an hour before the general meal, and
ate with the working men, whose appetites were enormous. And "Flo"
matched them, appetite for appetite. An hour later, he showed up at the
second meal, and when he toyed with his food and seemed listless about
his vitamins, the student-waiters, who were wise to the whole
proceeding, asked him : "What's the matter, Brother? Aren't you
feeling well?" "No, I'm not. I just don't seem to have any
appetite!" "Gee, Brother, that's too bad. You're working too
hard!" This sort of solicitude gave "Flo" tremendous
Brother Florian was
very acquisitive. He was a great collector of things that were left
around or bad been discarded. He gathered these things with an eye to
the future when some friend of his might desire them. The fact that
these "friends" might have to go to "Flo" for
favors, put them in his debt. And that was just where the Brother wanted
them. On one occasion, when Father Cavanaugh was away from the
University, Father Joseph Burke decided that the carpet in Father
Cavanaugh's room was not all that it should be and ordered a new one.
Father Burke remarked to one of the other Fathers that he might have the
old carpet if he could get to it before "Flo" got it.
Arrangements were made with the man who was to lay the new carpet that
he should take the old one immediately to "Father Will's" room
and tack it down without a moment's hesitation.
"Flo" had had
his eye on that carpet, but he was a bit too late. He went to
"Father Will's" room, but found the door locked. There was a
great deal of hammering going on inside. After some delay, the hammerer
opened the door. With magnificent authority, "Flo" said:
"Take that carpet up and bring it to my room!" "But I
can't!" answered the worker. "It's already got a thousand
tacks in it!" Non-plussed, the Brother withdrew. At noon, he
beckoned a finger at Father Will. "Have you been up to your room
yet?" he asked. "Yes" was the response. "How do you
like it?" "Swell!" "And believe me, Father Will, I
had a devil of a time getting it for you!"
I suppose every
religious community has its characters. Certainly "Flo" was
one of ours. Just having him around, with all his little peculiarities
and idiosyncracies added something to the joy of life. He was very much
a "Notre Dame man." He took a pardonable pride in the glory of
the University. He wanted people to feel that, in the public eye, Notre
Dame was seriously underestimated. Her beauty, her spirit, her
magnificence were the things that pressed on his mind. Of course, "Flo"
himself was not forgotten. It was a Saturday afternoon some years later
that he lay a-dying. There was a football game at Notre Dame that day,
and many of the old students had returned for the game. With sadness
they learned that "Flo" was nearing the end. During the game,
"Flo," in his sick-bed over at the Community House, turned his
head to ask, "What's the score now?" Before the game was over,
the tolling bell announced that he was no more.