On the Road to the Beatification of Father Solanus Casey; a special series for the Integrated Catholic Life by Mark Armstrong

The Heavens were weeping today, Saturday, November 18, 2017, over Detroit, Michigan.  Not for sadness, but for joy.  The pouring rain did not stop the nearly 70,000 people from streaming inside to Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, to participate in the Beatification Mass for Father Solanus Casey.  The now Blessed Solanus was himself a lion of humble obedience and service to others.

Today’s beatification drew 400 buses that carried parishioners from Michigan, Wisconsin and elsewhere.  The nearly 300 Capuchin friars joined about 350 Casey relatives from across the country and Ireland and the countless other religious who were in attendance today. “This is the biggest event in Detroit since Henry Ford rolled out the first Ford Model T over a hundred years ago,” said Bill McGowan of Detroit.  McGowan was one of the hundreds of volunteers here to assist at the Beatification Mass.  The sixty-seven-year-old met Father Solanus as a youngster in Detroit when he was just three-years-old.

Blessed Solanus and Blessed Father Stanley Rother of Oklahoma City are the only men born in the continental United States to be declared Blessed.  Blessed Stanley was martyred in Guatemala in 1981 and was beatified this past September in Oklahoma City.  Both men will need a second miracle to be confirmed before they are declared saints.  If that happens, these two men will join St. Katherine Drexel, born in Pennsylvania, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, born in the colony of New York, and a small group of a dozen-plus other missionaries and devout men and women with direct ties to the Americas who have been canonized.

His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Amato presided at the Mass today and delivered the homily.  Cardinal Amato is from Rome and is the Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and representative of the Holy Father.  Cardinal Amato reminded the Mass attendees that it was Saint John Paul II who declared Father Solanus Venerable in 1995.

Bernard Francis Casey was born November 25, 1870, on a farm near Oak Grove, Wisconsin.  Barney, as he was know to family and friends,  worked throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota as a logger, hospital orderly, prison guard, and street car operator. At the age of twenty-one, Bernard entered St. Francis High School Seminary in Milwaukee to study for the diocesan priesthood.  In 1897, he joined the Capuchin Order at Detroit and received the religious name of Solanus.   After his ordination in 1904, Fr. Solanus spent twenty years in New York at Yonkers, New York City, and Harlem. In 1924, he was assigned to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit where he worked for twenty-one years as the porter, endearing himself to thousands who would seek his compassionate counsel.   During his final illness, he remarked, “I’m offering my suffering that all might be one”

His last conscious act was sitting up in bed and saying, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.”  He died at the age of eighty-six on July 31, 1957 at the same day and hour of his First Holy Mass fifty-three years earlier, as pointed out by Cardinal Amato today.

How long will the Father Solanus faithful have to wait for his canonization?  Not long according to the The Father Solanus Guild, a Capuchin ministry, who initiated the Cause of Solanus Casey for sainthood in 1966 and continues to keep alive the inspiring memory of Fr. Solanus.  There are already miracles being attributed to the intercession of Blessed Solanus before today’s beatification. Tales abound from the devout and recorded by the Guild: scheduled operations no longer needed, hospitalizations shortened, kidney stones or pneumonia vanished, a formerly motionless six-year-old suddenly able to walk.

In addition to the guild, the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit opened its doors in 2002 to lead visitors on a spiritual journey.  Thousands come to the center each year for prayer, to nurture the spirit, and to visit Solanus’ tomb. In 1998, the Capuchin superiors recognized a need for a more hospitable way to receive the multitude of visitors who come to the tomb of Father Solanus each year.  The result is the beautiful and enriching Solanus Casey Center where Casey’s tomb is now located.  The Solanus Casey Center and Father Solanus Guild are ministries of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph headquartered in Detroit, which includes Capuchin ministries worldwide.  More information can be found at www.SolanusCasey.org.

Blessed Solanus spent his life in the service of people. Serving as a simplex priest did not stop him from ministering to the thousands of persons from every age and walk of life he encountered. In time of trouble and sorrow, they sought his prayers and advice. Many attributed favors to his prayers. He constantly showed his love of God by loving all of God’s people. He was always ready and willing to listen to anyone any time of the day or night. In return he asked people to love and support the missions.  His life of service is an example to us all.

Blessed Solanus, pray for us!

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