Capuchin Father Solanus Casey was not a worldly man, and his path to the priesthood was not smooth. He struggled academically, and it wasn’t immediately clear that he had the intellectual resources for ordination.
The high school seminary he entered in his home archdiocese of Milwaukee gently nudged him to consider joining a religious order as a way to live his calling, which led him to seek out the Capuchin Franciscan Friars in Detroit. The Capuchins took a chance on the earnest young man, despite his challenges. He entered the order in 1897, and was ordained in 1904 as a “simplex priest”—meaning he could celebrate Mass but could not preach doctrinal sermons or hear confessions.
He was never pastor of a parish, nor did he hold any administrative posts in his 53 years of priesthood. Instead, he served as a friary “porter,” or doorkeeper, for 20 years in Capuchin parishes in Yonkers and Manhattan, and then for 33 years in Detroit.
But Father Solanus was gifted with a compassionate ear and willingness to help, bringing a healing grace to the thousands of people who found their way to his door over the years.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis announced that the beloved friar has moved one step closer to canonization, with the Vatican’s acceptance of a miracle, one of many hundreds of healings attributed to his intercession. One more miracle is needed for Father Solanus to become a saint, and we have no doubt it will come along.
The news of Father Solanus’ beatification is a wonderful development—for the Church, for the many who were touched by his grace and for those who continue to seek his blessing through prayer.
We think his example could be especially inspiring to families coping with a learning disabled child, and to teenagers and adults who have themselves experienced learning differences and disabilities.
Academic proficiency is a worthy pursuit, but it doesn’t come easy or equally to all.
From what we know about Father Solanus, his limitations did not give rise to brooding, anger or withdrawal. He knew, perhaps instinctively, perhaps by pure faith, that God gives each of his children a special gift, and he was open to receiving the one bestowed upon him.
It was a gift, moreover, that he was able to share, caring for the sick, the poor and the downtrodden, and lending a listening ear and caring heart to the thousands who came to him for counsel, wisdom and aid.
Capuchin Father Thomas Franks, the pastor of Holy Cross and St. John the Baptist parish in Manhattan, said Father Solanus lived “a spirituality of encounter,” much like Pope Francis is advocating today.
“Solanus was living in the moment and brought a Christ-like light to those who needed it,” Father Franks told CNY.
In Detroit, where the Beatification Mass will take place later this year, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said of the friar: “He is an inspiration to all us Catholics—and to all—of the power of grace to transform one’s life.”
Father Solanus was a transformative figure indeed. We await his beatification with joy, when we can truly call him “Blessed.”