Daily Bread for the Poor
In Detroit the Beatification of the Capuchin Solanus Casey
Bernard Francis Casey was one of 16 children born to Irish immigrants in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, on 25 November 1875. On Saturday, 18 November , Casey, who in religious life took the name “Solanus”, became the first US religious member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin to be proclaimed Blessed. During the Beatification Mass, which was celebrated in Detroit, Michigan, Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, observed that in declaring the beloved priest Blessed, “Pope Francis points him out to the whole Church as a faithful disciple of Christ, a good shepherd”.
Some 65,000 people turned out for the Beatification Mass, held in Detroit’s Ford Field, to pay tribute to the humble man who had devoted his 60 years of priesthood to the poor. Tens of thousands more joined in the celebration via television and the Internet.
Cardinal Amato noted that the Capuchin priest, who was a porter for the community in various US cities including Detroit, always kept the door open for “the poor, the sick, the emarginated and the homeless”. The friar was known as a very holy man of profound faith; he was said to have had the “healing touch” and, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit, “people would line up for blocks to see Fr Solanus”.
Recalling some of Fr Solanus’ many activities at the service of the poor and most vulnerable, Cardinal Amato said that during the Great Depression he had helped to open the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. One day, the Cardinal recounted, when the Kitchen had run out of food, the friar prayed an Our Father, and “a ittle bit later knocking was heard at the door, and the baker appeared with a large basket full of bread” along with “a truck-load of God’s gifts. When the people saw this”, Cardinal Amato said, “they beganl to cry”. In response "Fr Solanus simply stated: ‘See, God provides. No one will suffer want if we put our trust in Divine Providence’”.
In his youth, Casey worked as a lumberjack, a street car operator and prison guard. After a series of difficult moments in his early life, and after having witnessed a murder while a prison guard, he turned to spiritual life. He joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin at the age of 33 and, devoted to Saint Francis Solanus, took the Saint’s name.
“Faith, hope and charity”, Cardinal Amato observed, “were for him the seal of the Trinity in our souls”.
During the Mass, the relics of Blessed Solanus Casey were carried to the main altar by Paula Medina Zarate, the Panamanian woman whose 2012 cure from a severe genetic skin disease was recognized as a miracle attributed to the Capuchin priest. The procession also included six others believed to have received significant favours of healing through Fr Solanus’ intercession.
Remarking on the Capuchin Blessed’s warm relationship with members of other Christian communities and faiths, the Cardinal observed that many of them had come for the Beatification. Indeed, “rabbis and ministers of at least 16 Protestant congregations visited him often for discussions and advice”, Cardinal Amato added. In fact, the new Blessed had encouraged “non-Catholics to live their faith authentically”, the Cardinal said, “even if for him, Catholicism was the only true religion”.
"Deo gratias: ‘Thanks be to God’”, the Cardinal stressed, was the prayer the friar was most often heard uttering. “He exhorted people to thank the Lord before making every request; this in order to commit Him all the more to answering it”. For the Capuchin priest, confidence in God, Cardinal Amato remarked, “produces serenity and joy and takes away trouble and sorrow. Trust in God dispels darkness and opens the horizon of hope in eternal blessedness in heaven”.
Fr Solanus passed away on 31 July 1957, after a long illness. Thousands came to his funeral to pay their last respects, and he was buried in Detroit. In 1987, 30 years later, his remains were exhumed and then reinterred in the Solanus Casey Center; they were to a large extent found to be incorrupt.
At Saturday’s celebration, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit thanked Cardinal Amato and his Congregation for their “devoted attention” to the cause of Fr Solanus’ Beatification, and asked the Cardinal to make sure Pope Francis knows “that we are grateful beyond measure that he has judged our beloved Fr Solanus worthy of the rank of Blessed”, and that “we are committed anew to imitate Blessed Solanus by witnessing to the good news of Christ s mercy”. He assured the Cardinal that “the field hospital of mercy is open here in Detroit”.
Weekly Edition in English
24 November 2017, page 12
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