Father Albert Braun, OFM, 1889-1983
By Dorothy Cave
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Fellow priests called his ministry “just short of a miracle.” A superior castigated him as “an adventurer,” Apaches and migrant Mexicans claimed him “one of us.” To his fellow soldiers he was “a man’s man.” Of himself he chuckled, “I’ve been in mischief all my life.”
He was Father Albert Braun, OFM, in turn mule-headed, explosive, or penitent. Vigorously outspoken, he once charged a group of august bishops to “get off your butts and out among the people.” His sense of duty was profound, his humor crusty. He arrived in New Mexico as missionary to the Mescalero Apaches just after Pancho Villa’s raid, was a highly decorated chaplain in both World Wars, and after World War II he participated in the top-secret birth of the first hydrogen bomb on a south Pacific atoll.
Drawing on archival and military records, letters, memoirs, and interviews, Dorothy Cave chronicles the amazing life of this last of the frontier priests from his birth in the lusty, brawling California of 1889, to his death and burial in 1983 in the church he built for his beloved Mescaleros. This book is at once a biography and a kaleidoscopic history of the tumultuous times in which he lived. From it there emerges the inspiring saga of a man who changed thousands of lives with faith, humor, dedication, and a generous dash of pure hard-headed cussedness.
Dorothy Cave spent much of her childhood exploring with her geologist father the isolated villages and mountains of northern New Mexico, a practice she continues today. Although her formal education was at Agnes Scott College and the Universities of Colorado and Wyoming, she feels her true education has come from these remote but rapidly vanishing hamlets and pueblos and from the soil-rooted wisdom of those who live in them. Cave has traveled widely, danced with the Atlanta Ballet, acted, and taught. She is the author of two histories: Beyond Courage, which won the New Mexico Presswomen's Zia Award, and Four Trails to Valor, both from Sunstone Press. Her two novels, Mountains of the Blue Stone and Song on a Blue Guitar were also published by Sunstone Press. Cave served as historical consultant for two documentary films: Colors of Courage, produced by Scott Henry and E. Anthony Martinez for the University of New Mexico’s Center for Regional Studies; and for Aaron Wilson’s award-winning A New Mexico Story, based largely on her Beyond Courage. She appears in both films as narrator/commentator. Beyond Courage also inspired composer Steven Melillo’s musical opus of the same title, acclaimed on two continents.
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