Kenneth Baker, S.J., Homiletic & Pastoral Review

January 6, 2022

“Fr. Solanus Casey, OFMCap., a very holy, Franciscan with a reputation for having worked hundreds of miraculous cures, died in Detroit. Michigan, in 1957. He was well known in Detroit and New York, the two places where he spent most of his life. The first time I heard about him was about thirty years ago in the 1970s. I recall that someone told me about the holy friar who spent most of his life as a porter; he was a priest who was not allowed to hear confessions or preach in a parish church because of his low grades in the study of theology. He was called a saerdos simplex or ‘simple priest,’ which meant that he could offer Mass each day and offer counseling to those who came to him. And they came to him by the thousands.

There is something very attractive about the life of this humble priest. He practiced the theological and moral virtues to a heroic degree so much so that he is almost a mirror-reflection of Jesus Christ himself.

The book by Michael Crosby is basically a summary of the various testimonies that were given before a commission established by the archdiocese of Detroit to investigate the holiness of Solanus Casey. The first part gives an account of the life of Fr. Casey, who came from a large Irish family of ten boys and six girls: the second part of the book tells us how Fr. Solanus practiced the various virtues—most of them to a heroic degree. He was born to pious Irish immigrants in Wisconsin in 1870; as the result of a special grace he went to Detroit in 1896 and joined the Capuchins, a decision he never regretted.

Since, like St. John Vianney, he had trouble with his studies, his superiors decided to ordain him but to restrict him to saying Mass. Because of the limitations set on the exercise of his priesthood, he spent most of his life doing the work of a lay brother.

Because of his virtuous life, which was accompanied with hundreds of miraculous cures, his cause for beatification has been introduced and accepted by Pope John Paul II. So we can now refer to him as Venerable Solanus Casey.

Every saint manifests the infinite perfection of God in his own particular way. Solanus Casey was outstanding for his faith and trust in God. He was a man of unshakable, unperturbable faith. And like St. Ignatius Loyola, who was a favorite saint for him, Solanus found God in all things. Related to this was his sense of gratitude to God for his many gifts. He used to counsel the people who came to him to thank God not only for what they had already received, but also to thank him for the future and for the death God has planned for them.

What did this humble priest do? What he did for over forty years was to answer the door and to take care of the needs of the people who came to the friars for help—either spiritual or material. Fr. Solanus was always there from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. He became widely known for his good advice, his encouragement, his promise of prayers, and eventually for the many cures worked by God through him and his intercession. Every day in Detroit there were lines of people waiting to talk to Fr. Solanus Casey. Whatever good he did he attributed to God alone, never to himself. His brother friars attest to the fact that Solanus Casey was a very humble man who gave all the credit to God.

In addition to giving good spiritual advice, Solanus was a model of kindness and helpfulness to all who came to him. He was never in a hurry, never impatient with the many requests for his time. In the practice of faith, hope, charity, patience and humility Fr. Solanus is an excellent model for all of us, whether priests, religious or lay persons.

I was given the grace to meet and speak with Mother Teresa of Calcutta on several occasions; I also preached to the Sisters three or four times while she was present. I think she was the holiest person I have ever met. While reading this life of Fr. Solanus . . . I see many similarities between the two holy persons one a man and the other . . . [a] woman. They both incarnated in their persons an extraordinary imitation of Jesus Christ that radiated from their persons.

This book by Fr. Crosby presents a good picture of that holy friar. [sic.] Solanus Casey. Let us hope that it will contribute to his becoming better known and to his eventual beatification and canonization. At the end of the book the author quotes the well-known Fr. Benedict Groeschel . . . who has come in contact with many holy persons. Of Fr. Solanus, Groeschel says. ‘I could easily say without any hesitation that he was the greatest human being I have ever known’ (p. 267).”

We would love for you to receive our newsletter and update emails. Please subscribe here.