This weekend, Saturday November 18th, Fr. Solanus Casey will be beatified at a Mass celebrated at Ford Field in Detroit with over 70,000 expected to attend. Beatification means that he will now be referred to as Blessed Solanus Casey, before he is declared a saint another miracle must be demonstrated to be attributed to his intercession. I’ve known of Fr. Casey since I was a child, probably because he was from Wisconsin and was a Capuchin priest of the Detroit Province, which I have an uncle who is a Capuchin priest of the Detroit Province who might have mentioned him once or twice. Obviously at least 70,000 other people are familiar with him, but mentioning him to others I began to realize many haven’t heard of him, so let me tell you a little about Solanus Casey.
He was born near Oak Grove, WI in 1870 and given the name Bernard Casey after his father, so he would be called Barney. When he was 21 he would enter St. Francis High School Seminary in Milwaukee to study for the diocesan priesthood. He was very challenged by the academics required and after completing his high school classes he was asked to leave the seminary with the suggestion that he might try a religious order instead. After praying about which order to go to he ended up with the Capuchins (a Franciscan Order) in Detroit. He would return to Milwaukee for some of his studies and eventually be ordained there for the Capuchins a “simplex priest” in 1904.
A simplex priest meant that he was not given the faculties to hear confessions or to preach sermons. So when he was assigned at Sacred Heart in Yonkers, NY that pastor had to decide what he could do, and he gave him the duties of sacristan, director of the altar servers, and porter or doorkeeper. This last one would be the one that was his true mission. People started coming to the door just to talk to him, get his advice, and ask for his prayers. Many considered that they experienced miraculous healings due to his prayers. He would spend 20 years in three different locations in New York, then 20 years in Detroit, MI, then 10 years in Huntington, IN in semi-retirement before returning to Detroit in 1956 for medical care where he would die in 1957. Always having simple positions of service he would carry out with humility, and people would find him and start flocking to him wherever he was assigned.
He was never known for extreme wisdom or talents, his violin playing is mentioned at times but never really with praise, but he was recognized for holiness, a person people sought out for spiritual advice and prayer. I would encourage you to read anything else you might stumble upon about him this weekend, and in the future, because I think he is still working to bring us all closer to God.