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If you heard about a seminarian who struggled all the way through seminary, failed one language class after another, and then was ordained on the condition that he give neither doctrinal homilies nor hear confessions – you probably wouldn’t expect him to amount to much.
But Bernard Francis Casey – the sixth of 16 kids from Prescott, Wisconsin – was such a seminarian. And the world is about to find out how far he went in his chosen field.
Nicknamed Barney by his family but better known now as Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap., this extraordinary figure recently advanced closer to sainthood with the Holy See’s May 4, 2017 announcement that Pope Francis has approved one of the innumerable miracles ascribed to Casey’s prayers.
But those who knew Father Solanus through his decades of service to the poor and the sick in Yonkers, New York, Harlem, and at St. Bonaventure’s in Detroit, either witnessed or heard of many hundreds of similar cures and prophetic happenings at the gentle hands of this holy man.
I first heard of him from his great nephew Kelly Casey, a fellow Franciscan University of Steubenville student and friend. The more I read about Kelly’s great uncle, the more I wanted to read about this simple priest with a heart for the poor and the hurting.
One incident from his life stands out. When Barney was working as a streetcar motorman in Superior, Wisconsin, he witnessed the stabbing of a woman in the street, accompanied by the blasphemous screaming of the man who had just savaged her with a knife. That moment branded itself in his brain: the maniacal yelling, the bright red flash of blood on the blade, the woman’s supine body on the pavement. To Barney, it was a singular manifestation of the reality of sin and the fallenness of the world – and an actual grace to seek after Him who would show men the meaning of true love and mercy. There was no turning back.
He was ordained in 1904, and began a life of priestly self-giving that would last until his last day on earth, July 31, 1957, the anniversary of his first Mass.
It’s the sheer ordinariness of his m.o. that gets you. No histrionics, no fanfare. He simply spoke quietly with the sick or troubled person, blessed him or her (often on the forehead) and said, “You’ll be fine. Everything is going to be okay.” Or, if the situation wasn’t to have a happy ending, Father Solanus would couch it in gentle, palatable terms. Either way, you came away changed, either strengthened for tough times, or dizzy with joy because of a healing.
The recipient of the miracle is a woman who suffered an incurable genetic skin condition (Father Solanus died of a similar virulent condition) and who went to his tomb to pray for some friends. Sensing an inner tug in her heart to beg healing for herself, she asked for the wiry Capuchin’s intercession and was instantly and visibly healed.
With the acceptance of the miracle, Venerable Solanus will become Blessed Solanus in a ceremony in Detroit later this year. He will be the second American-born male Blessed, after Servant of God Father Stanley Rother is beatified in Oklahoma City in September. Father Rother was martyred in 1981 in Guatamala – which jumped him to the head of the pack of candidates for sainthood.
Father Solanus underwent a slow winding white martyrdom, starting with the humiliation of being ordained a simplex priest, unable to deliver official sermons or hear confessions. Put in charge of the altar boy schedule and sacristan duties was a condition most men aspiring to the priesthood would find beyond intolerable.
But Solanus accepted his circumstances, seeing in humiliation the alchemy that produces humility – the virtue with which he is perhaps most identified. People soon understood that the quiet Capuchin who greeted them at the friary door had an unusual gift for really listening to their troubles, a gift that included striking healings that bring to mind St. Padre Pio or St. Andre Bessette, CSC, of Montreal. The astounding part is that it took the Congregation of the Causes of Saints so long to recognize one of Solanus’s miracles, there are so many to chose from.
Continue Reading at National Catholic Register HERE