Blessed Solanus Casey Showed the Way for Us

Following is Fr. Bernard Healey’s homily for 11/18-19 liturgies.  Fr. Healey is the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church, East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Last night a great event took place at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, the home field of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Nearly 70, 000 people filled the stadium — but not for a football game. And while it barely got a mention by the mainstream media, it was the largest Catholic event to take place in Detroit area since St. John Paul II visited there in 1987.

The event was the beatification ceremony for Venerable Solanus Casey. At Ford Field last night they celebrated a simple, humble working man who, against all odds, became a priest and now enters the final chapter on his road to being canonized a saint, an American-born saint. This simple, unpretentious man known as the “Doorkeeper”, Solanus Casey was the kindly priest who shed his ego so he might serve others.

The sixth child of 16 children, Bernard Francis Casey was born to poor, Irish immigrants in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, in 1870. He had always felt the calling to the priesthood but it was delayed as he left school to go to work to help support the large family.

Barney Casey did what he had to do to earn money. He worked as a lumberjack, a prison guard, and a streetcar operator and even as a hospital orderly. He did whatever job he had to the best of his ability, always with 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. 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.

In 1904 Brother Solanus became Father Solanus Casey at the age of 33. He had to fight to get through his studies but he managed, though he was ordained as a “Sacerdos Simplex” — a simple priest, meaning he wouldn’t preach or hear confessions. Father Casey never complained.

For decades Father Casey lived and served at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. His primary job was that of “doorkeeper.”   He became widely known for his service to the sick and the poor, and also for the sage 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. He spent hours upon hours patiently receiving, listening to, and counselling the ever growing number of people who came to him. Father Solanus Casey died July 31, 1957, the anniversary of his first Mass.

He was utterly normal and ordinary. He was a man who spent the majority of his life opening and closing doors for people. A man who in the view of our culture appeared to have no worldly talent, no marketable skills.   Solanus Casey couldn’t produce a movie, transplant a heart, throw an NFL touchdown, pick a stock, litigate a case, lead a political movement or build a skyscraper.

His talents weren’t great, they were simple.  Greeting people with kindness and charity, serving people with generosity and compassion, treating people with patience and love. Blessed Solanus, the Doorkeeper, had no ego and was happy just to serve God in the simplest of ways.  He was always faithful to God in small matters as he opened the door to Christ’s abiding presence.

Today’s parable is an instruction on how we are supposed to serve our God.  God has given each of us a certain number of “talents”, that is the abilities and blessings we have received from God. Each of us has been given a certain amount of talents; thus, we are expected to bear a certain amount of fruit.

God has given them to us, and we are free either to squander our gifts, burying them in the hole of self-indulgence and selfishness, apathy and laziness, cold-heartedness and greed.  Or put them to use as Christ would have us use them, as we are called to do, building up his kingdom, as so many before us have done before us, and as the saintly Doorkeeper, Blessed Father Solanus Casey did. It is the secret to total happiness in this life and in the life to come.

My friends, each of us is faithful to the degree in which we glorify God by using our talents!  After all you don’t need much talent to be kind and patient, generous and charitable, loving and compassionate, and to simply open the door to the loving and abiding presence of Christ with our words and in our deeds. The Gospel is the invitation to come share in our Master’s joy by loving, knowing and serving God.

As Blessed Solanus Casey once said: “We should ever be grateful for and love the vocation to which God has called us. This applies to every vocation because, after all, what a privilege it is to serve God, even in the least capacity!”

Blessed Solanus Casey, the Doorkeeper, pray for us. We thank you for your faithful and joyful witness of how to simply know, love and serve our God.