Bl. Solanus Casey

I was blessed to be able to attend Father Solanus Casey's beatification in Detroit in 2017, though I had not yet joined the Church. It was lauded in the media as the "Catholic equivalent of the Super Bowl", and an estimated 60,000 pilgrims were in attendance.

And no, that isn't a Tardis, I just happened to have blue Lego doors laying around. Though if they chose to base the next Doctor on a beatified Franciscan priest noted for his humility, I surely wouldn't complain.

Lifetime: 1870 to 1957
Region: Detroit, Michigan
Patronages: Porters; Failure and setbacks; Skin conditions; Detroit
Iconograpy: Door; Red glasses; Franciscan habit
Feast Day: July 30

Solanus Casey was born Bernard "Barney" Francis Casey and was one of sixteen children. When he was seven, he contracted an illness that permanently damaged his voice and killed two of his siblings. Because his family moved several times when he was young, Barney never completed an education. He started working as a teen on a variety of jobs including farmhand, lumberjack, orderly, and prison guard.

Barney's conversion came in his last job, where he operated a street car. As he drove his car through a rough part of town, he witnessed a violent murder. Soon before this, he had hoped to marry a young woman, but his hopes for that life were dashed when she was suddenly sent to a boarding school. And thus, Barney discerned a call to the priesthood.

However, there was a problem. Barney had never finished school, and seminary required an education. He attempted to study in a high school seminary, but the classes were taught in either German or Latin, neither of which he spoke. He was encouraged to instead join a religious order due to his "academic limitations". 

Barney took this advice to heart and returned home to pray about his decision. While praying in front of an icon of Mary, he heard the voice of the Holy Mother tell him to "go to Detroit". He applied to a Capuchin monastery in Detroit and took his vows when he was 27. Here he took the name Solanus, after Saint Francis Solanus, since both men liked to play violin. 

Solanus' struggles with studies continued as a monk, however. Because of his struggles, he was ordained as a simplex priest, meaning he was able to celebrate Mass, but could not give homilies or hear confessions.

For the next 20 years, Solanus was transferred to several different friaries in New York before getting transferred back to Detroit to the Saint Bonaventure convent, where he lived and served for another 20 years. His role in this convent was largely the doorkeeper, or porter. 

Solanus' humility was able to truly shine in this humble role. He became known in the surrounding community as "the Doorkeeper", and many would come to this quiet porter, not to enter the monastery itself, but just to seek the healing and compassion offered by Solanus himself. He was a renowned listener and people of many different faiths would come to speak to Solanus and seek his healing prayer.

During the Great Depression, Solanus helped form the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, a non-profit organization that is still in operation today. Since its formation, the Soup Kitchen has expanded its role beyond providing meals to also a food and clothing bank, drug rehabilitation program, and an extra curricular youth programs.

"I'm offering my sufferings that all might be one. If only I could see the conversion of the whole world."

-Solanus Casey 

Solanus' last ten years were unfortunately plagued with suffering. He was transferred to another monastery in Indiana because of extreme eczema and spent the next ten years there healing. He was sent back to Detroit for a food poisoning hospitalization, but was found to be suffering from lesions on his legs upon release and was quickly re-hospitalized. He died of skin infection after nearly a month in the hospital at the age of 86. His last words were "I give my soul to Jesus Christ".

Solanus' cause for canonization was opened in 1976 and he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1995. In 2017 a miracle by Solanus' intervention was confirmed by the Vatican and later that year he was declared Blessed. If a second miracle is confirmed, he can be canonized as a Saint.

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