Le moine, le prétre et le général. Les frères Lalande ou le dépassement de soi. By Jean-Pierre Guérend. [L'histoire à vif] (Paris: Éditions du Cerf. 2008. Pp. 170. euro17,00 paperback. ISBN 978-2-204-08604-2.)
At the beginning of June 1940, a seriously wounded French army officer, Captain André Lalande, was carried aboard the last transport ship leaving Narvik in northern Norway, where Allied troops had engaged the Wehrmacht since April. Now the German invasion of France itself demanded the evacuation of the expeditionary force and the redeployment of those soldiers still able to fight. Lalande would not participate in the ensuing French debacle, but both of his brothers would survive the defeat only to be taken prisoner by the Germans. These two brothers, imprisoned in the Reich until 1945, were not themselves professional military men like André. Bernard was a Catholic priest, and Jacques was a Benedictine monk.
Jean-Pierre Guérend, an intimate of one of the Lalande brothers, offers the "trois portraits croisées" (p. 152) of a monk, a priest, and a general to illustrate how three devout French Catholics helped shape the postwar world. According to Guérend, the parents of the Lalande brothers instilled in their three sons (who also had five sisters) a common Catholic faith and call to service. In different ways, the author insists, each brother found his vocation in a form of self-sacrifice. Guérend introduces Antoine Lalande, their father, as both friend and follower of Marc Sangnier, the founder of the early-twentiethcentury Christian democratic Sillon movement and a fellow native of the Corrèze. Their mother, the former Marie-Thérèse Gaume, numbered a Jesuit and three nuns among her siblings. Apparently, she did not desire a monastic, priestly, or military vocation for her sons.
Maternal wishes aside, Bernard entered the seminary at Issy-lesMoulineaux in 1928; Jacques (the eldest) presented himself at the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Maurice de Clervaux in Luxembourg in 1929, and André (the youngest) won acceptance to Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, in 1931. While his brothers pursued a wartime apostolate in the Stalag, André recovered from his 1940 wounds and fought alongside the Free French at the 1941 desert battle of Bir Hakeim. …