Patti Armstrong discusses the spiritual impact of Blessed Solanus Casey, and how we can all implement his most famous advice.
Six years ago, my husband and I attended the Father Solanus Casey beatification in Detroit. I have his picture in our bedroom and often look into his face as I ask him to pray for my intentions. I’m from the Detroit area, where he is well known and loved. He is especially known for is all the miracles before and after his death and also for telling people to “Thank God ahead of time,” trusting in His providence.
When Father Casey died there July 31, 1957, more than 20,000 mourners came to view his body at St. Bonaventure Monastery, and 8,000 attended his funeral Mass, overflowing onto the streets.
While he served at the Capuchin Monastery in Detroit, his job was to answer the door. He was a simplex priest and due to his struggles with academics in seminary, not given the ability to hear confessions or speak homilies on doctrinal subjects. When people came to the monastery, Solanus waited with people who had come to see someone else. He would listen to their stories and pray with them. Miracles happened so often that word spread and so many people began coming to see him that long lines would form outside the door.
Solanus Casey was lowly man who died sixty years ago, yet a crowd of 66,000 had gathered for his beatification at the Ford Field football stadium. His gift of miracles and prophecy attracted thousands and his gentleness and love, comforted all who came to see him, miracle or not. It seems everyone who knows of Father Solanus knows at least one miracle story.
When I interviewed one of the co-postulators for his cause of canonization, I learned there were 14 drawers full of reports of “favors” people believe came about through his intercession. Since many seemed to qualify as miracles rather than favors, it was explained to me that if there is any chance it could have come about without a miracle, than it’s not considered as something to consider as a miracle towards his canonization.
For instance, a woman in the hospital, seemingly near death, was given a badge with Blessed Solanus on it with a relic of his tunic and suddenly sat up and was able to leave the hospital that day. A nurse in the room said that can happen, so that situation is not eligible to investigate for a miracle.
A Witness to Many Wonders
I met Beth Hool at a friend’s prayer group several years ago while I was visiting family in Michigan. Her parents were among the founders of the Father Solanus Guild, which opened in 1960 to further his cause for canonization.
Both of Beth’s grandparents knew Father Solanus. In 1940, when her dad was 12 years old, his neighbor, Detroit Tigers second baseman Charlie Gehringer, had given him tickets to a game. The boy broke his vocal cords cheering so loudly. Specialists determined that the damage was permanent and he would never speak above a whisper again. His mother brought him to see Father Solanus, who said his voice would get better on the car ride home. It did.
“When my mother was born, Father Solanus visited my grandmother in the hospital and told her to name her Dolores, for the seven dolors [sufferings] of the Blessed Mother,” Beth said.
Delores grew up and married and after a difficult labor for their second child, the doctor told her never to have more children or she would end up in a wheelchair. Delores was devastated because she wanted a large family. “My grandmother asked Father Solanus to visit her,” Beth said.
“Delores, why are you crying?” he asked when he walked into her hospital room. When he heard why, he told her not to worry. “You will have five more children and not end up in a wheelchair,” Father Solanus said. And so it was.
Beth first began praying to Father Solanus—joining with family and friends—when she was six and her 5-year-old brother was not expected to live through the night after being badly burned.
“If you are in heaven, why don’t you ask Jesus to let Billie live?” Beth pleaded. He got better. “I began building a relationship with Father Solanus after that,” she said.
Beth’s mother had often called on Brother Leo (he had served as a secretary to Father Solanus) to bring Father Solanus’ relic of the True Cross, which has relics from the apostles around it, and meet her at the hospital and pray to Father Solanus. There were many healings. As her mother’s health declined, Beth began to take her place and do the same often seeing many wondrous answers to prayer.
And even if there is not a recovery, she told me, “You know that God is doing something wonderful through prayer.” Blessed Solanus’s advice to people to thank God ahead of time, whenever asking for a favor is something I often remind myself. Our faith teaches us to trust regardless of our circumstances, and to remember to thank God, trusting that He knows what is best for us.
About the Author
Patti Maguire Armstrong is an award-winning journalist and author, managing editor and co-author of bestselling Amazing Grace Series. Her latest books are Dear God, I Don't Get It, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious!, What Would Monica Do?, and Holy Hacks. Patti worked in social work and public administration before freelance writing while she and Mark raised their 10 children. Twitter: @PattiArmstrong; blogs at PattiMaguireArmstrong.com