Thousands attend beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey, now one step from sainthood

Thousands attend beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey, now one step from sainthood

By Hannah Brockhaus/ and agencies

Thousands of Detroit area Catholics knew Father Solanus Casey as a miracle worker.

On Saturday, November 18, the Catholic Church officially recognized that quality in the late Capuchin friar, declaring him “Blessed Solanus” in a beatification Mass at Ford Field.

"I've been waiting for this day for 14 years," said Lily Flask of Livonia, Mich., who believes Casey's intercession helped save her husband from heart problems in 2003. "I prayed every day to him. ... I had to be here today."

The rare ceremony put Casey, who co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen here, one step and one miracle away from being declared a Catholic saint. Detroit's ceremony was the third time a beatification has occurred in the United States and the first for an American-born man.

Casey, born Bernard "Barney" Francis Casey in Oak Grove, Wis., died in 1957 years ago in Detroit. But when he was the doorkeeper of St. Bonaventure Monastery on the city's east side from 1924 to 1945, his prayers and presence gave comfort to visitors suffering from illness and trauma.

Flask and her husband, Salvino, were waiting in line for was the largest Catholic service in Michigan since 1987 when Pope John Paul II presided over Mass at the Silverdome in Pontiac. The same mammoth wooden altar and matching pulpit were used in Saturday's service; 70,000 tickets were given away, and about 60,000 came despite a gray day with some rain and a high around 45 degrees, archdiocese officials said.

Casey was beatified Saturday because the Vatican and its experts said they could find no scientific explanation of how one woman’s genetic, disfiguring skin disease disappeared in the hours after she prayed at Casey’s tomb.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, the prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided at the Mass and led the rite of beatification.

As the near-capacity crowd stood, Amato, wearing a large golden mitre, read out loud in Latin an Apostolic letter from Pope Francis bestowing on Casey the honorific “Blessed Solanus."

The crowd applauded as Amato stood up to display the decree. Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron read an English version. A life-size banner of Blessed Solanus was unfurled on the altar platform.


Venerable Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest from Wisconsin, was humble before all else, said the postulator of his cause for sainthood.

The life of Casey is the story of his “humility, his simplicity, as well as his acceptance of whatever life gave him,” Franciscan-Capuchin Father Carlo Calloni told Catholic News Agency Novmbere 15.

Casey is an American-born Capuchin priest who died in 1957. He will be beatified at a Nov. 18 Mass in Detroit. Known for his great faith, attention to the sick, and ability as a spiritual counselor, he will be the second American-born male to be beatified.

As the general postulator for the Order of Friars Minor-Capuchin, Calloni is well-versed in the life and virtues of Casey, whom he told CNA had a gift for listening and for consolation.

“He became the friar at the door of the monastery, who welcomes your spiritual needs but also answers to your physical needs or material difficulties,” he said.

“There was no one, after visiting Solanus Casey at the door of the monastery, who returned with nothing. Everyone received something, spiritual or material.”

The priest’s humility began even in his youth, Calloni said. Born on Nov. 25, 1870 to a family of Irish immigrants, he worked from a young age at a variety of jobs, including as a lumberjack, prison guard and tram driver.

Around the age of 20, he felt a strong desire to become a priest, entering the seminary at Milwaukee. But he had many difficulties in his studies there, Calloni explained, “especially to learn German and Latin, the languages in which theology was taught” at the time.

After the seminary encouraged him to enter a religious order, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit and after struggling through his studies, was ordained in 1904 a “sacerdos simplex” - a priest who can say Mass, but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

Because he was a “sacerdos simplex” he was given the same jobs as lay brothers of the order; he worked as an assistant to the janitor, the cook, and the tailor. For 21 years he was the porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, assigned to answer the door whenever it rang.

“He accepted performing even these humble services, and in this he fulfilled, as it is said, God’s design for him,” Calloni said.

Eventually, because of his humility and good counsel, people began to seek out Casey for spiritual guidance.
Over the course of his life “he also wrote many letters in reply to the people who asked him for advice.”

Casey died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87. Since then many people have received favors from his intercession. And on May 4, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to his intercession, paving the way for his beatification.

Calloni said because the miracle is a “delicate” matter, he could only speak of it in general terms, but said it occurred to a Panamanian woman who was invited to visit Detroit by Capuchin Franciscan missionaries.
During her visit, the woman, who had a grave and incurable genetic skin disease, visited and prayed at Casey’s tomb. Like many devotees, she wrote a note to place at the tomb, asking for a special grace or favor.

She prayed for a long list of family and friends, but then was moved to ask for something for herself. “And she asked only to have a greater faith. This is all,” Calloni said. She was completely healed.

“The figure of Solanus Casey is well known in Detroit,” he said. “He is truly in the heart of the city. Precisely because he accepted everyone to his door. He did not refuse anyone: the color of the skin, religion, social condition. He really was a man of great spirituality, of great faith.”

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 10:04
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