By Larry Peterson
On November 18, 2017, a great event will take place at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, the home-field of the NFL’s, Detroit Lions. Upward of 70, 000 people are expected to fill the stadium and they are not going to be there for a football game. Millions from around the world will be watching the event on television or whatever type of device they may have and they will not be tuned into the World Cup. This will be the largest Catholic event to take place in Detroit since St. John Paul II visited there in 1987. And, more than likely, this event will receive barely a mention by the mainstream Media. It is the way of things in 2017.
It does not matter. It does not matter because this day transcends any political motivation or bias. This is the beatification ceremony for Venerable Solanus Casey. This is the day we celebrate a working man who, against all odds, became a priest and will enter the final chapter on his road to being canonized a saint, an American born saint. This simple, unpretentious man, known as the “Doorkeeper”, was the kindly priest who shed his ego so he might serve others. This was not a birth defect. Rather, like all those elevated through the process of sainthood, he had that beautiful quality of foremost loving God before all else—no matter what.
The sixth child of sixteen children, Bernard Francis Casey, was born to poor, Irish immigrants in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, in 1870. His family and friends called him Barney. When Barney was a young boy he contracted diphtheria and this left him with a permanently raspy sounding voice. Barney was never going to be a singer but that never mattered to him. He had always felt the calling to the priesthood. Unfortunately, there was a ‘bump’ in the road for Barney. He had to go to work to help support the family.
Barney Casey did what he had to do to earn money. He worked as a lumberjack, a prison guard, a streetcar operator and even as a hospital orderly. He did whatever job he had to the best of his ability always keeping his serving God as his primary goal. Consequently, his education was put on hold and it took him five years to get back to high school. When he did it was at St. Francis High school seminary in Milwaukee. He spent five years studying before being able to join the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. When he was accepted he took the name Solanus, after St. Francis Solanus.
Brother Solanus became Father Solanus Casey at the age of 33. He had to fight to get through his studies but he managed. However, upon ordination, he was given the title, “Sacerdos Simplex”, which means, simple priest. He would not be allowed to preach or hear confessions. Father Casey never complained.
For more than 20 years Father Casey lived at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. His primary job was that of “doorkeeper”. He became the finest “Doorkeeper” who ever lived and, unexpectedly, also became known for his service to the sick and for the advice he would give to the visitors who came by. After a while, people began attributing cures and other blessings to Father Casey’s interaction with them.
Father Solanus Casey died in 1957. He was a man who opened and closed doors for people. A man who had no ego and was happy to serve God in the simplest of ways. A man who, because miracles have been attributed to his intercession, will be Beatified before tens of thousands of people in a football stadium on November 18, 2017, while millions more around the globe will watch the ceremony via television. If I could be at Ford Field, I would definitely “take a knee”.
Blessed Solanus Casey, please pray for us. And THANK YOU for your wonderful example of how to live.