Let me tell you … when you’re in the thick of sick kids, malfunctioning appliances, and feeling not-so-well yourself, it can be a challenge to thank God ahead of time for whatever grace He is pouring out in the pit of your self-pity. Yet it is precisely lessons like this that place the soon-to-be Blessed Father Solanus Casey so close to my heart. To say I am excited for his beatification would be an understatement!
You can read more completely about his story here, but this is my TL;DR version: Aspiring to the priesthood, Fr. Solanus entered the seminary to become a diocesan priest. A few years later, upon suggestion of his seminary superiors after struggling with German, he discerned his calling to religious life and entered the Capuchin Franciscan order. He continued to struggle with his academics throughout his preparation for priesthood. Languages weren’t his forte, but without proficiency in Latin, he could not be fully ordained to the priesthood.
Yet, whereas MY first inclination would be to abandon ship, Fr. Solanus proceeded abandon himself to God’s will through the tasks and orders he was given within the Capuchins. He was finally ordained a “simplex-priest” (meaning he could not hear confessions or preach doctrinal sermons) and eventually ended up at their headquarters in Detroit after serving at other posts around the country. Here (and in many of his posts) he became known as the “doorkeeper” and was highly sought after for his counsel and gift of healing. It is in his acceptance and execution of his vocation that we learn the greatest lessons: obedience, humility, and hospitality.
1) The Gift of Obedience: “Blessed be God in all his designs.” When it was clear that Fr. Solanus would not be ordained to the full priesthood, he didn’t question his superiors. Instead of fighting their judgement and seeking after the golden goose of the priesthood he had been seeking, he submitted himself to their direction and surrendered himself to the plans God had for him in full confidence. This leads to the second lesson.
2) The Gift of Humility: “Thank God ahead of time.” Fr. Solanus felt no shame in his roles as subdeacon or simplex-priest. The tasks he was assigned well into his priesthood were the same that were assigned to novices. This was no matter for him. He served with gratitude, joy, and pride, with no sense of inferiority to his brother priests. All he was given to do he saw as a gift. God had asked him to care for His house and His people, and Fr. Solanus would do both with great care. This leads to the third, and for me, a most pertinent lesson in these times.
3) The Gift of Hospitality: As the doorkeeper to the monastery, Fr. Solanus would encounter people from all walks of life – faithful and those of little to no faith alike. Because of his humility and obedience and deep love of Christ, no one would be turned away. There are legends miles wide of people from all faiths who were affected deeply by his kindness, his openness, and his compassion. He saw every knock at the door as an opportunity to share the love and mercy of Christ, and every person who knocked as having been sent to him by the Lord — no matter who it was.
I consider myself lucky to live in the Metro Detroit area where we can visit Fr. Solanus, ask his intercession, and continue to seek to emulate him in his mercy and humility. It is this very surrender in humility to serve God however He asked that I believe led Fr. Solanus to be such a powerful vessel of His mercy. People continue to flock to him for his intercession and gifts of healing. Soon-to-be Blessed Father Solanus is considered a miracle-worker to many who know him, not because he did anything spectacular himself, but because he fully opened himself to allow God to work through him to whomever God brought him. What a beautiful gift that is to the Church of Detroit (and throughout the world).
(Almost) Blessed Father Solanus Casey, pray for us.
Copyright 2017 Rakhi McCormick