The ministry for which Fr. Solanus is most remembered was his time as porter (doorkeeper and receptionist) at the Capuchin monastery in Detroit. He also said Mass every Wednesday for the sick, a Mass that was usually overflowing. It is reported that many felt that the cures they or their loved ones received were the result of his prayer. Fr. Solanus, however, felt that the miracles had nothing to do with him, but rested solely with the grace and mercy of God. Many recounted that when they met with him, he exuded a peace and calm that would make them feel that they had his entire attention, even if there were lines of people waiting to see him. It seems that even though he had to live with the humiliation of being a lowly doorkeeper, he found the road to holiness on the path which was laid before him by God.
Fr. Solanus teaches us that no act or service is too lowly to be used by God. Something as simple as being a porter can put us in the path of the suffering or lonely. Through prayer we can immerse in the grace of God which is offered to us continually, and grow gradually in holiness. According to his biographers, Solanus did not become holy on the day of his entrance into the Franciscans, nor did he become holy at ordination. He did not even become holy on the day they sent him to be a porter. His holiness came with a lot of inner work, much prayer, and some suffering. He had to allow grace, which he came to see is “like the air which permeates us,” to work on him so that he could conquer his anger at the humiliation leveled upon him, and so that he could move past his sensitivity to criticism.
May we persevere in prayer, no matter what our trials, so that we may grow in relationship with Jesus! May we be inspired by Fr. Solanus so that with the help of God’s grace we may move against designations or labels which might otherwise hold us down! May we ask the intercession of Fr. Solanus for those who have lost the ability to respect themselves or others because of a wounded perception of who they are before God! May we become immersed in God’s grace so that we might work for peace in our world! May we trust the great cloud of witnesses to intercede on our behalf! And may we grow in our desire for holiness, working with God in the process of becoming who He truly created us to be! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* St. Ignatius of Loyola is on the liturgical calendar (and not Solanus Casey) because Fr. Solanus is not yet a canonized saint; he is considered “Venerable” and needs a recognized miracle performed through his intercession that occurred after his death to be beatified and given the title “Blessed;” and then one more miracle after that is needed in order for him to be canonized as “St. Solanus.” St. Ignatius is already canonized and therefore will supersede Solanus for the time being. So if you have a need, (especially for physical healing), or know someone who does, pray to Fr. Solanus for his intercession and maybe we can help him along!
Here are some sites with information on Fr. Solanus, all of which I used for my research into him:
NOTE: Next post - August 15
IMAGES:The first painting is a fresco called Paradise, by Giusto de Menabuoi, (1376). It is in the dome of the Baptistery in the Padua Cathedral in Padua, Italy. It depicts Jesus surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, that is, the saints. I chose this because I loved how there seem to be countless holy men and women surrounding Jesus, as if emanating from Him and flowing outward to the viewer. I also love that directly beneath Him and also the largest saint in the fresco is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the most prominent of all the saints.
The second work is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Venerable Solanus Casey The Healer. I love that with one hand he is ladling soup to give to the poor and the other is in a gesture of blessing, pointing upward to Mary who appears to be depicted as Our Lady of Sorrows. (See Fr. Bill's icon Our Lady of Sorrows at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/our-lady-of-sorrows-028-william-hart-mcnichols.html.) Fr. Solanus knew sorrow in living with the designation as 'simplex priest,' an insult which was always with him because of how it limited him in his priestly ministry. Yet he attained holiness because he persevered, allowing God to design the path to holiness which he trod. I like that his hand is in a gesture of blessing, which reminds us of his intercession for the sick and the many miracles which were attained through his prayer. Click here to go to the page with the Solanus Casey icon: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/venerable-fr-solanus-casey-the-healer-038-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Third is a photo I took while in New Mexico. The variety of clouds in this photo reminds me of the grace of God which is "like the air which permeates us." The clouds in the foreground are on the move, and almost seem to be moving in the photo. The one in the background seem static, a great cloud which paints the sky as if totally immovable. God's grace is like that: it is dynamic and moves us to action, but God Himself is a rock of stability upon whom we rest.
Next is a photo I took in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the main driveway of St. Joseph on the Rio Grande Catholic Church. This bush was exploding with yellow flowers and I could not help but be amazed at the exquisite color. I chose this photo because I thought of what the same bush must look like when it is not blooming. It is probably an ordinary green, similar to other bushes, yet when it goes through the transformation brought upon by blooming, it erupts into color. This is what the process of becoming can be like for us: we can seem to erupt with holiness, but we have to go through the process of becoming to get there.
Last is a painting by Vincent Van Gogh called A Wheat Field with Cypresses. I chose it for two reasons. The first is that I loved the effect of the wind and clouds that are clearly making the wheat, and even the evergreen tree, sway. But the second reason is that this was painted while Van Gogh was in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental asylum near Arles, France. Van Gogh knew he was flawed and yet he worked incredibly hard to overcome his mental issues: he voluntarily became a patient there. And he considered this one of his best summer paintings, perhaps because it represented the fruit of his labor, both his inner work and his art. Click here for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_Field_with_Cypresses