Anticipation builds for Fr. Solanus beatification

People stand outside Ford Field in downtown Detroit in the raining. Waiting to get into the stadium to celebrate the beatification Mass of Fr. Solanus Casey (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

DETROIT — The day is finally here.

Since the May 4 announcement, the anticipation for the beatification of the Fr. Solanus Casey has been building for thousands of Catholics across the Archdiocese and around the world.

Today, Fr. Solanus Casey, born Bernard James Casey Jr., in Prescott, Wis., on Nov. 25, 1870, will become the second American-born man to be beatified in the Roman Catholic Church.

The occasion has been inspiring to the countless Solanus Casey devotees who’ve been praying for this day for many years.

“It’s so exciting to see an American become beatified,” said Fr. Jonathan St. Andre, TOR, of Loretto, Pa. “It’s a sign holiness reach all places in all people. Our country needs the intercession of Fr. Stanly Rother (beatified Sept. 23) and Fr. Solanus Casey. We need their intercession in all our lives.”

Scores of groups from across the United States have descended upon Detroit for the beatification, visiting the Capuchin Soup Kitchen Fr. Solanus founded during the Great Depression or his tomb at the Solanus Casey Center.

Jeanette Carlson of Wausau, Wisc., serves on the board of the St. Anthony Spirituality Center in Marathon City, Wisc., which has its own Fr. Solanus Center as a section of the building, but was visiting the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit before making her way to Ford Field.

“We have classes and retreats about Fr. Solanus at the center, and I think I’ve been hearing about him for more than years,” said Carlson, who said she’s been praying for the beatification for many years.
“It’s just a joyous day to be here. Finally at last, people can’t believe it is happening, we’ve been waiting for a long time.”

As thousands of people processed through the Solanus Casey Center to get a glimpse of what like was like for the doorkeeper of St. Bonaventure Monastery, Carlson reflected on why this priest, who had no parish, no public ministry in the traditional sense, and certainly no following on Facebook or Twitter, means so much to so many.

“Fr. Solanus is a man who lived a simple faith, a man of simple beliefs,” Carlson said. “He was down to Earth, for the people, and people respond to that.”

As people gathered around Ford Field on a rainy and cold afternoon —on observer remarked it was Solanus’ way of welcoming everyone with traditional Irish weather — Bro. Stephen Wright, OFM Cap., a student friar at the Capuchin College in Washington D.C., said Solanus’ life is an inspiration for all young Capuchins.

Huddled together with his fellow classmates, Bro. Wright couldn’t contain his excitement, despite the weather.

“This is pretty exciting, even though I’m pretty cold,” Br. Wright said, shaking the raindrops off his beard. “I know a lot of the brothers are thinking I look like Solanus with my beard and all, so they’re happy for me. I think it’s cool to see a very holy guy, who didn’t draw a lot of attention to himself is getting all this attention because of all the prayers and support he has had from people throughout the world.”

Bro. Wright admitted having thousands of people filling a NFL stadium doesn’t smack of humility, but adds honoring God’s servant on Earth is a way of honoring God.

“We now have some miracles attributed to him, which is really cool, those are favors from God,” Bro. Wright said. “He (Fr. Solanus) would say it wasn’t all about him at all, that this is drawing people toward God. That he is just a humble instrument. And that’s who we’re here to honor today.”