Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal

January 6, 2022

“Michael Crosby’s book on the American Capuchin friar Solanus Casey (1870-1957) gives those interested in saints and the saint-making process an inside look at the kind of dossier compiled for the canonization process.

Solanus Casey is a textbook example of the traditional candidate for beatification and canonization. A model Franciscan religious whose academic deficiencies were such that he was ordained to the priesthood but was not given faculties for solemn preaching or hearing confessions—a so-called sacerdos simplex—Casey exercised his ministry as a doorkeeper at various religious houses in Detroit. He never requested that his status be changed even though he was obviously average in intelligence, and his deficiencies were largely because of the bad academic training he got in a seminary where the texts were in Latin and the lectures in German. He had an extraordinary reputation for his spiritual counseling, the power of his prayer, his generosity to the poor, and his work as a healer. Thousands attended his funeral and, after his death, his reputation grew as many people invoked his aid in their prayers.

As these pages make clear, Casey derived his spirituality from the traditional sources set forth for every consecrated religious in his day: the Mass, the Office, devotional practices of the rosary, and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The only peculiar side to his spiritual life was his lifelong devotion to the four-volume The Mystical City of God by the seventeenth-century Poor Clare, Mary of Agreda—a work which for a time rested on the Index. How Casey came across this strange work and why he read it all his life ‘on his knees’ and encouraged others to read it is not clear although, in that period, there was a rather wide-spread taste for other rococo spiritual writers like Grignion de Montfort. There is no evidence in Casey’s writings—consisting of his spiritual notebooks and his many letters—that he was in any way heterodox.

How the process of Solanus Casey fares (and every indication is that he was a person of great prayer and extraordinary self-giving) is not for us to say. What is interesting in this volume is the rhetorical tone that is adopted to make its case.”

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