Saturday, November 18, 2017

Beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey, OFM Cap

Today in Detroit Michigan (USA), a special Mass was celebrated.  During the Eucharistic celebration - presided over by His Eminence, Angelo Cardinal Amato, SDB, Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Satins - that took place in Detroit's Ford Field, Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap, a beloved priest was Beatified.

Words of Welcome offered by Father Michael Sullivan, OFM Cap
Capuchin Provincial Minister

Welcome brothers and sisters to this joyous occasion! We welcome especially those whom Father Solanus so loved—the poor and the sick. We also greet Your Eminence Cardinal Amato, Archbishop Vigneron, Your Eminences and Excellencies who are with us, Clergy, religious, Faithful of the Church and distinguished visitors from all the Churches and other faiths. We gather in gratitude for all of God’s blessings and for all the ways in which God moves in our lives. What a witness was our beloved brother Solanus! He opened his heart to each person he met, he prayed with them, appreciated and loved them, and through him God moved powerfully again and again. Thanks be to God! As we begin our celebration, thank you for joining with us in this Eucharist to give praise and thanks to God for the witness of our brother Solanus.

Presentation of request for Beatification
by His Excellency, Allen Henry Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit (Michigan, USA)

Your Eminence: 
On May 4th, 2017 Pope Francis confirmed the miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Solanus Casey OFM Capuchin. For decades countless faithful have awaited this moment, which has been the object of so many requests. I ask you now to read the decree of the Holy Father by which the Servant of God, Solanus Casey, will be enrolled in the official catalogue of the Blessed of our Church.

Short Biography of Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap
read by Brother Richard Merling, OFM Cap

Father Solanus Casey, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, was born on November 25, 1870 on a farm
 in Western Wisconsin bordering the Mississippi River. His Irish immigrant parents named him Bernard. He was the sixth child in a family of ten boys and six girls. After he left the farm he worked in Wisconsin and Minnesota as a logger, a hospital orderly, a prison guard and a street car operator.

When he was 21 working on a street car he saw someone who was drunk assaulting a woman on the street car's tracks. This created in him a sense of wanting to do something to make the world better. This led him to enter Saint Francis High School Seminary in Milwaukee to study for the diocesan priesthood. Since he was an English-speaking Irishman studying in a German-speaking school, he had difficulty with his studies. It was recommend that he leave that seminary to enter a religious order. He was invested in the Capuchin Order at Detroit in 1897 and received his religious name of Solanus.

Unfortunately for Solanus the Capuchins also were German-speaking; this led him to have more difficulties with his priestly studies. This led his superiors to decide, with his acceptance, that he would be ordained but not allowed to hear confessions nor preach dogmatic sermons. Ordained in 1904, Father Solanus spent 20 years in the New York City area: Yonkers, the Lower East Side and then Harlem.

In 1924 he was transferred to Saint Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit where he worked for 20 years. In 1945, he returned to New York for one year at Saint Michael's in Brooklyn. Then he was assigned to Huntington, Indiana from 1946 to 1956. When he was in the last year of his life, he was reassigned to Saint Bonaventure in 1956.

Father Solanus spent his life in the service of people. At the monastery door, he met thousands of persons from every age and walk of life. In times of trouble and sorrow, they sought his prayers and advice.

Many people believed he had the gifts of healing and prophecy; they attributed favours to his prayers. He constantly showed his love of God by loving all of God’s people. However, like his models, Jesus and Francis, he would often say: I have two loves: the sick and the poor. He was always ready and willing to listen to anyone any time of the day or night. In return he asked people to develop their own spiritual lives by growing in love and God and neighbour, especially by their support for the missions.

During his final illness, he remarked: I'm offering my suffering that all might be one. If only I could see the conversion of the whole world. His last conscious act was to sit up in bed and exclaim, I give my soul to Jesus Christ. He died in Detroit at the age of 86 on July 31, 1957 and is buried at Saint Bonaventure Monastery.

Decree of Beatification
Read by His Excellency, Allen Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit

 fulfilling the wishes of
  Allen Henry Vigneron,
 Metropolitan Archbishop of Detroit,
 and several other brothers in the Episcopate
 as well as many Christian faithful,
 on the recommendation of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,
 by Our Apostolic authority,
 decree that the
 Venerable Servant of God,
 Francis Solanus (secular name: Bernard Casey),
 professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin,
 a humble and faithful disciple of Christ,
 tireless in serving the poor,
 henceforth be called by the name of blessed 
and that he may be celebrated annually
 on the thirtieth of January in the places and ways established by law.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Given in Rome, near Saint Peter, on the Eleventh of November,
 on the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop,
 in the year of our Lord 2017, the fifth of Our Pontificate.


Archbishop Vigneron and the Minister General (Brother Mauro Johri OFM Capuchin), read the expression of thanks to the Holy Father in English, accompanied by the Postulator General (Father Carlo Calloni), Vice-Postulator (Father Lawrence Webber OFM Capuchin), Vice-Postulator (Brother Richard Merling OFM Capuchin) and representatives from Solanus’ family (Kitty McEneaney) and a founding member of the Solanus Guild (Bridget Schultz).

Archbishop Vigneron
Your Eminence, in the name of the Capuchin Order and the Archdiocese of Detroit, We ask you to convey profound thanks on behalf of us all to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and we thank you as well as the Holy Father’s official representative.

Fr. Mauro
The beatification of Solanus Casey is a great gift to the Church in Detroit, the Capuchin Order and the faithful in the United States. His example of deep faith, boundless charity and missionary spirit will inspire all of us as we strive to live joyfully the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily of His Eminence, Angelo Cardinal Amato, SDB
Prefect of the Congregation for Causes of Saints
at the Beatification of Father Francis Solanus Casey, OFM Cap

1. The Beatification of Father Francis Solanus is an historic event for the Archdiocese of Detroit, for the Order of Franciscan Capuchins and the American Church. It is, in fact, the second Beatification of a priest born in America, after that of the missionary Stanley Francis Rother, which took place last September twenty-third in Oklahoma City. While Blessed Stanley Rother died a martyr in Guatemala, killed in hatred of the Faith, Blessed Francis Solanus Casey attained holiness here, in the United States of America, ascending every day the steps of the ladder that takes one to the encounter with God through love of one’s needy neighbours. Others, above all the poor, were seen by him not as a weight or an obstacle to his climb to perfection, but as a way to the light of the splendour of God.

Witnesses affirm that love, faith and trust were the three points that he always preached to people. Faith, hope and charity were for him the seal of the Trinity in our souls. Their practice constituted the effective antidote to atheism, despair and hatred, that pollute human society. The preaching of Father Solanus was not a sterile and disincarnate announcement; it was accompanied rather by the concrete practice of faith, hope and charity in his every-day life.

2. As long as there is a scintilla of faith – he used to say – there can be no discouragement and sorrow. Coming from an Irish family of profound Catholic convictions, faith was for him a very precious inheritance for facing the difficulties of life. The sense of the presence of the Providence of God was alive not only in the formal moments of prayer, liturgy and study, but also in the daily events of family-life. And so, when the young Bernard Casey entered the Capuchins becoming Francis Solanus, he passed from one community of faith to another.

Father Solanus lives by faith. His person seemed to be surrounded by a supernatural halo. He always used to pray, above all in front of the tabernacle. Prayer was his constant practice of piety. He had a son’s devotion to Mary and recited the Rosary with devotion. Reception of the Sacraments gave him security and courage to face the future.

His profound faith allowed him to receive others as a brother, independently of their race or religion. Rabbis and Ministers of at least sixteen Protestant congregations visited him often for discussions and advice. One day, a Protestant minister asked Father Solanus if he would pray for his seriously ill son. Certainly, the Capuchin answered: Only God can heal your son, but I will pray for him. Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit noted: Father Solanus practiced ecumenism long before Vatican II.

The new Blessed exhorted, in fact, non-Catholics to live their faith authentically, even if for him Catholicism was the only true religion. During his apostolate in Yonkers he often repeated a paradoxical affirmation, made by Robert Hugh Benson, son of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, who converted to Catholicism and became a priest and a successful writer: The Catholic Church promises much, but in my experience she gives ten times more. If you place on a balance-scale, life with success outside the Church, and life with the greatest lack of success in the Church, I would choose the second a thousand times over.

3. Father Solanus lived, and taught others to have great confidence in God and in His Fatherly Providence. Confidence is the soul of courage for facing even the most adverse situations. The prayer Deo gratias was frequently on his lips. Actually, he exhorted people to thank the Lord before making every request; this in order to commit Him all the more to answering it. He used to say that confidence in God 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.

4. Father Solanus exhorted people to exercise charity, saying: God loves us, let us also seek to love God. His priestly apostolate was distinguished as the practice of charity towards neighbour. The testimony of Booker Ashe, a Capuchin Friar, who had known Blessed Solanus in the fifties, is meaningful: I am the first black member of the Capuchin Order in the United States, and I think that he was ahead of his time for the way in which he treated me. I noticed nothing racial in his behaviour. He saw all people as human beings, images of God. All the rest was secondary. He did not pay attention to race, colour or religious creed.

His favorite sons were the poor, the sick, the marginalized and the homeless. He always fasted in order to give them their own lunch. He spent hours upon hours patiently receiving, listening to, and counselling the ever-growing number of people who came to him. Practically speaking, the greater part of his time as Porter was dedicated to others: from nine o’clock in the morning until nine at night, almost without interruption. When they asked for him while he was eating, he went immediately, saying: Food is not so important as is to seek to help others.

There is one little defect in his life. In the judgment of his fellow-Friars, in fact, Father Solanus was a bad musician. For this reason, after his first failure in the community, with simplicity and humility, in order not to disturb his neighbor, on Sunday evening he went to the chapel with his violin and played Irish religious songs in front of the tabernacle. The Lord listened to him patiently because our Blessed was lacking in music, but not in virtue.

5. During the great depression of nineteen twenty-nine, in order to help the many who were suffering from hunger, with the help of benefactors he created the kitchen for the free distribution of soup to the poor. One day there was no more bread and there was a long line of more than two-hundred people waiting for something to eat. Father Solanus approached and began to recite the Our Father. A little bit later knocking was heard at the door and the baker appeared with a large basket full of bread. He had also brought a truck-load of God’s gifts. When the people saw this they began to cry with emotion. Father Solanus simply stated: See, God provides. No one will suffer want if we put our trust in Divine Providence.

6. Thus, Father Solanus responded to the Word of God: Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me (Mt. 25:40). The life of our Blessed is an exemplary page of the Gospel, lived with human and Christian intensity. It is a page to read with edification and emotion, and to imitate with fervour.

In raising the American Capuchin to the honors of the altars, Pope Francis points him out to the whole Church as a faithful disciple of Christ, a good shepherd. Today the Church and society still need the example of the works of Father Solanus.

Blessed Father Solanus, pray for us!

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