Friar lived out faith, hope, charity every day, says cardinal

By Catholic News Service
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Blessed Solanus Casey, who was beatified during a Mass Nov. 18 at Ford Field in Detroit, records a note from a woman who visited him at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit in 1941. (CNS photo/Archdiocese of Detroit)

DETROIT — Blessed Solanus Casey always said that “as long as there is a spark of faith,” there can be no discouragement or sorrow, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

His words were accompanied by “the concrete practice of faith, hope and charity in his everyday life,” said the cardinal in his homily during the Nov. 18 beatification Mass for the beloved Capuchin Franciscan friar who was known for his cures and wise counsel.

“He came from an Irish family of profound Catholic convictions. Faith for him was a very precious inheritance for facing the difficulties of life,” Cardinal Amato said. “When the young Bernard (his given name) Casey entered the Capuchins, he passed from one community of faith to another.”

Blessed Solanus “focused on the poor, the sick, the marginated and the hopeless,” Cardinal Amato said. “He always fasted in order to give others their lunch. For hours upon hours, he patiently received, listened and counseled the ever-growing number of people who came to him.”

The friar saw people “as human beings, images of God. He didn’t pay attention to race, color or religious creed,” the cardinal said.

A congregation of more than 60,000 filled Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, which was transformed for the Mass. The altar, placed at midfield, was created originally for St. John Paul II’s visit to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987. To the right of the altar was a large painting of Blessed Solanus. It was unveiled after the beatification rite, which took place at the beginning of the Mass.

Dozens of bishops, priests and deacons processed into the stadium for the start of the liturgy. The music was provided by a 25-member orchestra and a choir of 300 directed by Capuchin Franciscan Father Ed Foley. The singers were members of parish choirs from across the Detroit metro area.

Cardinal Amato was the main celebrant, joined at the altar by Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron; Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States; and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, himself a Capuchin Franciscan. 

In the congregation were 240 Capuchin friars and at least 300 members of the Casey family from across America and Ireland. The Casey family’s Irish roots were reflected in the Irish hymns chosen as part of the music for the liturgy.

He is the second American-born man to be beatified, after Blessed Stanley Rother, a North American priest from Oklahoma who in 1981 was martyred while serving the people of a Guatemalan village. Blessed Rother was beatified Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City. 

Among the hundreds, if not thousands, of healings attributed to Blessed Solanus during and after his lifetime, Pope Francis recognized the authenticity of a miracle necessary for the friar to be elevated to blessed after a review by the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes was completed earlier this year.

\The miracle involved the healing — unexplained by medicine or science — of Paula Medina Zarate of Panama, a woman with an incurable genetic skin disease. She was only recently identified publicly and she was at the Mass. As it began, she walked up to the altar with a reliquary holding a relic of Blessed Solanus.

Zarate was visiting friends in Detroit and stopped at Blessed Solanus’ tomb to pray for others’ intentions. After her prayers, she felt the strong urging to ask for the friar’s intercession for herself, too, and received an instant and visible healing.

The miraculous nature of her cure in 2012 was verified by doctors in her home country, in Detroit and in Rome, all of whom confirmed there was no scientific explanation. Blessed Solanus himself died of a skin disease July 31, 1957.

Born Nov. 25, 1870, in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, Bernard Francis Casey was the sixth of 16 children born to Irish immigrants. He enrolled at St. Francis High School Seminary near Milwaukee in 1891 to study for the diocesan priesthood. But because of academic limitations, he was advised to consider joining a religious order instead.

He went to Detroit to join the Capuchin order in 1897. He was given the religious name Solanus.

He spent his life in the service of people, endearing himself to thousands who would seek his counsel. 


  • saints

Related Articles