Sixty one years after his death and eight months after his beatification, Blessed Father Solanus Casey is still able to draw crowds in Detroit.
The porter priest and Capuchin friar’s first feast day was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Detroit July 30, with a novena for his canonization and various Masses and special events held throughout the area in his honor.
Four Masses for Solanus were celebrated over the weekend and on Monday, including two celebrated by Archbishop Allen Vigneron. Each Mass was packed to full or overflowing, Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap. and director of the Solanus Casey Center, told CNA.
When asked why so many people of Detroit and beyond continue to be drawn to Solanus even decades after his death, Preuss said it is because Solanus was “good to people.”
“That’s it, he’s good to people, he always was, and he continues to be,” Preuss said.
“People were asking how many people are going to come (to his feast day events) and I said look...he is a powerful intercessor, and we hear about new favors every week, they happen all the time,” Preuss said, so he was not surprised at the overflow crowds.
Fr. Solanus was a friar and simplex priest, meaning that, due to lesser academic abilities, he was not allowed to preach or to hear confessions.
This meant he carried out simpler tasks, and in Detroit he is fondly remembered as the porter (doorkeeper) at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he served 1924-1945.
As porter, Fr. Solanus became the main link from the brothers to the outside world, and he became renowned among the people of Detroit for the gentle and willing counsel that he offered from his post at the door, and for the miracles attributed to his intercession.
In order to be beatified in the Catholic Church, a miracle must be attributed to a person’s intercession after their death and approved by the Vatican.
For Solanus, that miracle was the curing of a skin disease in Paula Medina Zarate, a woman from Panama, who also made the trip to Detroit this week to celebrate Blessed Solanus’ feast day.
At the Solanus Casey Center, located just down the street from the monastery in Detroit where Fr. Solanus answered the door, nine days of prayer were held for Fr. Solanus leading up to his feast day, which included prayers for his canonization and different themes each day based on various aspects of the friar’s life. There was a blessing for the sick, tours of and donations to the soup kitchen founded by Solanus, as well as Masses for families, young people, and consecrated religious.
A second Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vigneron honoring Blessed Solanus was held at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Michigan, a place where Solanus liked to retreat to pray.
Monsignor Robert McClory, rector of the shrine, told CNA that the chair Blessed Solanus used on his visits to the shrine was displayed for his feast day.
The shrine was also chosen as the first stop for a “relic tour” of a first-class relic of Blessed Solanus - a bone from his right thumb, which will travel throughout the archdiocese’s schools and parishes in the coming days for veneration.
“In the Detroit area it’s hard to meet a Catholic who was not in some way touched by Blessed Solanus Casey,” McClory told CNA.
“Every time I make a reference to Blessed Solanus in a homily, I will typically get anywhere from 6-12 comments afterwards of people telling me stories of how Blessed Solanus helped their father, their grandparents, and had a special role in their life,” he said.
His humility and simplicity gave Solanus “an approachable holiness” that drew so many people to him, McClory added.
“He had humility, and everybody could approach him, and he had a big heart for those who were suffering and those who were sick, and that included those who suffered materially, but also those who had deep spiritual needs,” he said.
The miracles worked through his intercession gave Solanus a kind of “credibility” with God to the people who came to him, McClory added, so they trusted the friar even when they were told their prayers would not be answered in the way they had hoped.
“It’s not just that he was a vehicle through which miracles occurred, but also because of that, in a beautiful way he had more credibility when he told people their prayer isn’t going to be answered the way that you want it to be, but God has a plan and it’s going to be ok,” McClory said.
A modern, local saint shows the people of Detroit that “Jesus is near, that he’s in our midst, that God loves Detroit,” McClory added, “and that God has a desire to build up holy men and women whose virtues we can imitate and whose intercession we can seek, and it makes holiness that much closer for us.”
Blessed Solanus Casey was beatified on Nov. 18, 2017 in Detroit. The next step in his canonization process is for an additional miracle to occur through his intercession and be approved by the Vatican.