Monday, 3 August 2009
Who is Solanus Casey?
Who is Fr. Solanus Casey? Well, I consider him to be a heavenly friend of mine who just happens to be on his way to being called St. Solanus Casey!
He was born in 1870 in Wisconsin and was one of 16 children (yes, his parents were Irish immigrants). Because he and his brothers had to stay out of school so often to help on the farm, he probably only finished Grade 8. After leaving home, he worked as a trolley conductor and then a prison guard. Finally he did what he had always wanted to -- he entered a religious community (the Capuchin Franciscans) and then begin his studies for the Catholic priesthood.
He did very well at living his Franciscan vocation, but he did not do so well in his theological studies. It wasn't that he was lacking in intelligence, but rather that theology in his seminary was taught in German! Poor Brother Solanus knew not a word of German! In spite of his poor marks in theology, he was finally ordained a priest, but was restricted from preaching or hearing Confessions for his whole life. He did not complain or try to change things, but accepted his status as what was known in those days as a "Mass priest".
His community, not knowing what to do with a priest who could only celebrate Mass, gave him the job of porter or doorkeeper -- a job usually given to a lay brother in the community. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for now everyone who came to the Friary first met Fr. Solanus. His unusually blue eyes were very gentle and seemed to invite people to share their problems. As busy as he was, he always seemed to have time for everyone.
As the years passed, more and more miracles were attributed to Fr. Solanus. He evidently had the ability to read hearts and often knew what people were thinking. As well, he had foreknowledge about the future events in a person's life. Hundreds of times, he would tell someone who had come to see him to return to the doctor and have the physician check again for whatever disease the person had been diagnosed with. These people would come back the next day or the next week with the great news that they were completely healed -- the doctor could find no sign of the disease which had previously been so evident.
Of course, Fr. Solanus was also very direct when necessary and you didn't want to ask him about your health unless you really wanted to know the truth. Stories were told of people who asked Fr. Solanus if they would be healed and he would reply, ever so gently, saying something which implied "Well, I think you should get your affairs in order."
Fr. Solanus would be in the porter's office from early morning until late in the evening and he never turned anyone away -- he always made times for them. Early on his superiors, seeing his good works, asked him to keep a record of people he spoke with and the healings reported. Over the next 20 years, he filled 7 notebooks with his tiny script, writing carefully on the front and back of each sheet. In these are recorded more than 700 healings of everything from cancer to tuberculosis that people had reported after asking Fr. Solanus to pray for them or simply expressing their concerns to him.
After his death in 1957, there was such an outpouring of letters and requests for visits to Fr. Solanus' gravesite that the body was exhumed so that a special place of visitation could be set up. At that time it was discovered that the body was still intact. To this day there are many pilgrims each year who make their way to Detroit to visit the Fr. Solanus Casey Center. One of these days I would like to make a visit there myself. Meanwhile, I will just stay in touch with him through the "Communion of Saints" -- as we say in the Creed.
I had a wonderful visit today from a couple who are very involved in Catholic publishing and they were able to give me lots of good advice about my book. I will continue to see if I can get the book professionally published.
May peace be with you all.