Imagine, even if your name is “Barney” you can become a saint. Barney, baptized Bernard, was the sixth of sixteen children born to Irish immigrants Bernard and Ellen Casey. The date of his birth was November 25, 1870. The place was a three room log cabin on a farm in Hudson, Wisconsin. His cause for sainthood was accepted by Rome in 1976 and, in 1995, he was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II. If Venerable Solanus Casey were to be canonized soon he would be the first United States-born male to be raised to the altar. I don’t know how many American born male saints there are south of the border, but one of them, Lima’s Saint Martin de Porres, was a humble porter just as Father Casey was.
There are four other saints that I know of who served as porters for some part or all of their religious life. They are Blessed André Bessette of Montreal, Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., of the island of Majorca, recently canonized Saint Nuno de Braganza of Portugal for a time, and, likewise, for a time, Saint Padre Pio.
There may be something to the job, some special grace that goes with the humility of the service. A porter in a monastery should always be available to be of service to visitors, whether it be escorting them to an appointment with another religious, dispensing alms, or just answering questions or listening to problems; it’s a totally altruistic occupation the moment a guest comes to the door. Then, again, in-between visitors, a porter’s job easily lends itself to prayer and contemplation.
The Casey Household
Having devout Catholic parents, and being reared in a domestic economy that had fifteen siblings to squash any slothful selfishness, Barney learned from his earliest years to work hard, help others, and, most important of all, be available. When he was eight years old, Black Diphtheria made its way through the area taking the lives of two of the Casey children. Little Barney also contracted the terrible disease. He survived; however, the inflammation of the nervous system left him with a bit of a speech impediment.
Later, as a priest, Father Solanus would describe life in the tiny 12×30′ log cabin as a “mansion.” “Well,” he said, “you’ll be wondering how it might be called a mansion. Well every decent mansion has a chapel of some dimensions. Ours was at times all chapel, and at times something of a church.” Prayer began every day at the domestic “church” and family Rosary and night prayers began promptly every evening at 7:00. Reading about how the Caseys would sing Irish and American folksongs, play music, and tell stories together in the evening as a family reminded this writer of the same type of tradition that made the home of Father Leonard Feeney, the founder of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, such a rich and happy environment to grow up in the early years of the twentieth century. Father Feeney was only twenty-two years younger than Solanus Casey, and before television ruined everything familial, family members entertained each other at evening time in the domestic hearth. Interesting too is that both the Caseys and the Feeneys were blessed with three priests in the family.
Barney Casey the Young Man
Barney did not receive much of an education in his youth on account of the need for his hands on the farm. When his younger brothers got old enough to replace him he finished grammar school and went off to work on his own at the age of seventeen. He had a variety of jobs, including lumberjacking, hospital orderly, prison guard (where he made friends with a couple of Jesse James’ cohorts) and street car operator. At this point in his life there was nothing extraordinary about Barney. He was devout, said the daily Rosary, and was looking for a wife. When the mother of a girl he had proposed to just as suddenly sent her away to boarding school, he tempered his desire for the married life. One day, while driving his streetcar through a rowdy section of the city of Superior, Wisconsin, he witnessed a crazed, drunken sailor stab a woman to death. “The scene remained with him,” wrote his biographer, James P. Derum. “To him the brutal stabbing and the sailor’s hysterical cursing symbolized the world’s sin and hate and man-made misery.”
This horrible crime was the occasion for the stirring in his heart of a desire to become a priest. In 1892, at the age of twenty-one, he entered St. Francis seminary in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which city at the time was heavily German. In fact, classes at the seminary were not given in English but only in German and Latin. Knowing neither, Bernard Casey could not keep up with the scholastic requirements. He was kindly advised that if the priesthood was his certain vocation he should pursue it in a monastery where he could receive an ordinatio simplex (a simple ordination). This would allow him to offer the Mass, but it would leave him without faculties to hear confessions. As he was praying over this before Our Lady’s statue in the chapel he heard her sweet voice telling him to “go to Detroit.” So this is what he did.
Arriving in Detroit in 1897, Casey was received into the Capuchin order at St. Bonaventure’s monastery where he was given the name Solanus in honor of the seventeenth century preacher and missionary, St. Francis of Solano. This was rather ironic given the fact that with his ordination in 1904 as a “simplex priest,” Father Solanus was not permitted to preach sermons. This humiliation the thirty-three year-old friar received with great joy.
Yonkers, New York and the Seraphic Mass Association
After his ordination by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Milwaukee, Father Solanus was sent for his first assignment as a priest to Sacred Heart parish in Yonkers, New York, where he was to serve as sacristan and later doorkeeper. Here it was that he began his life’s work with the promotion of the Seraphic Mass Association. The idea behind the Association was that each of the members could benefit from the prayers of all the others and from the Masses, prayers, and good works offered by Capuchin priests and brothers. Father Casey would help the more seriously ill to fill out the Mass card while he listened to their problems and prayed with them. Reports started coming in of quickly answered prayers and miraculous cures. People were astounded, and the news of the power of the Association and Father Solanus’ prayers spread rapidly.
After fourteen years at Sacred Heart, Father Casey was transferred to Our Lady of the Angels Church in Harlem. Here, again, he took up his assigned post as doorkeeper. The miracles continued. As more and more people appeared at the monastery door to ask for Father Casey’s prayers or to thank him for favors received, great and small, his superior, Father Provincial Benno Aichinger, directed him to keep a record of these “special favors.” For twenty years he did this work in New York, one soul at a time, day after day, sometimes receiving as many as two hundred visitors in one day. Before his death in 1957, Father Casey had filled seven large notebooks with stories of miraculous cures and conversions. Here are a few entries:
“June 21, 1932, Joann Gietzen, fifteen months old, seemed paralyzed. Had never tried to stand or use her legs. Enrolled with promise of father to enroll her perpetually as soon as improvement noticed — and weekly instead of monthly Communion . . . One minute after these promises were made she stood alone on mother’s lap . . . next day started to walk.
June 12, 1939, Eva St. Ours, 38 . . . cured of blindness. One eye completely blind, the other almost gone (sight). Enrolled in Seraphic Mass Association and promised a Novena to the Sacred Heart. Completely cured that day — sight 100%.
March 29, 1926, Joseph G., 24, reported hopelessly sick and dying in Providence Hospital with complications — kidney trouble principally — is enrolled . . . by his chum. . . . at the time a Russellite (Jehovah Witness) — who promised to do something specially pleasing to God if his friend is spared. Two days later he phones that the patient is back to consciousness and able to talk. A week elapses and he phones that his friend is actually reading the newspapers and feeling fine. Next day makes a profession of faith and abjures heresy and returns after seven years to reception of the Holy Sacraments. Both young men came to monastery today, healthy and happy. Thanks be to God.”
Father Solanus always attributed the cures to the Seraphic Mass Association. However, when other priests enrolled members there were no such miracles. Only when the holy porter offered the prayers did such stupendous healings occur.
The Porter of St. Bonaventure’s
In 1924, Father Solanus was reassigned to St. Bonaventure’s where twenty-eight years before he had received the brown habit of a Capuchin. His reputation for sanctity, the gift of healing, and the ability to read souls had preceded his arrival, so, once again, he was given the porter’s post, and the crowds would line up after Mass to open their hearts to him and receive his blessing and advice. The humble porter’s apostolate was a cherished blessing to the monastery but it was also a trial, a welcome one, but still a bit burdensome. You see, a good number of the visitors needed to have their confessions heard and the humble doorkeeper had no faculties to forgive sins. Father Casey would spend almost his whole day with his needy children and the confession bell was rung frequently.
In his early years in religious life the holy porter had to work hard to discipline a nature that tended to be overly sensitive and impatient. Capuchin biographer, Michael H. Crosby, in his study, Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey, wrote that the emotional Irishman would “battle with feelings that could easily get expressed in anger, intolerance, and excessive concern over little things.” In his younger years, even in religious life, the humble friar was rather impulsive, thinking later and acting first, and sometimes too critical of others; yet when it came to himself he could be a bit defensive, and he didn’t mind compliments. With the help of God’s grace he completely overcame these tendencies and nurtured within himself a very congenial, humble, and patient disposition. Keeping in mind his own past sins helped forge the holy porter’s own deep humility of soul and it gave him patience in dealing with the sins of the tens of thousands who sought his counsel over the fifty years of his priestly labors. Casey was literally re-made through his cooperation with grace for this special vocation which God had prepared for him. At peace with God and, therefore, himself, he exuded peace to all who came seeking the “good things.”
Not everyone who came for a cure received it. As with Padre Pio, who also was not permitted to preach, Blessed Brother Andre, and many other saints like them (the Curé of Ars, for example) would counsel most petitioners to accept their cross as a means of salvation.
The long list of favors granted through Father Casey’s intercession include other things than cures. In 1925, John McKenna, an auto worker with the Chevrolet motor company feared losing his job when the firm was about to file for bankruptcy. So, he took his worries to Saint Bonaventure’s porter. Father Solanus took pity on the man who most likely had a family to support. He obliged him to make a fifty cent donation and enroll Chevrolet into the Seraphic Mass Association. Two nights later the company got an order for 45,000 machines.
Father Solanus would continue his work here at Saint Bonaventure’s for twenty-one years. If his superiors had hoped to give him a reprieve from what he had endured in New York, they were mistaken. The crowds that came to ask for his prayers and counsel grew even larger in Detroit. He was given a larger office and chairs lined the hallway outside for those waiting their turn to talk to him. Wednesday was set aside as a special day for the blessing of the sick. Father Casey would read the prayer of Saint Maurice for the sick and bless them with a relic of the True Cross, then he would deliver a short homily.
Not all of Father Solanus’ apostolate was confined to the porter’s office. Although he operated street cars, he never learned to drive a car. There were times when he needed a ride to visit someone in need whom he knew was not going to come to him. Other times he was asked to go to minister to someone sick in the hospital. He cured one nursing sister who was on the verge of slipping into a coma from a severe strep infection by praying at her bedside and reading the Passion. Although there were no signs of a cure when he left her side he told the other sisters waiting outside the room that she would be fine; and so she was. But before he left the hospital a Catholic man spotted him and asked him to bless his wife who was recovering from a minor surgery. After doing so he urged the husband to resign himself to the will of God as his wife would not live. A few hours later the nursing sister was on her feet and this other woman had passed away.
God Wants His Children to be Confident
With all of those petitioners whom he knew by prophetic knowledge would have their requests answered, Father Solanus would exact from them some promise to perform some devotion or frequent the sacraments more often. He would also tell them to take their problems to the Blessed Mother and thank her before having their prayer answered. One must really believe and have confidence if one has fulfilled his promises to God, by thanking Our Lady beforehand one obliges her to request the favor of her Son who can never refuse her. It was when these promises were fulfilled that the cures followed. As with Padre Pio some came out of curiosity to watch him or listen to him. Once an atheist came to the monastery and he actually had the audacity to assert the fact before the holy porter. Casey looked him in the eye and said: “You are a damned fool.”
Extra phone lines had to be put in at Saint Bonaventure’s to deal with all the inquiries. There were so many requests sent by mail that a secretary was appointed to help the humble doorkeeper, and donations poured in as well, but he would use none of that for himself, no not a penny. Casey was totally oblivious to the money that came in many of the envelopes. If he did not remember to hand it in to the house bursar the cash or checks would end up as page markers in his books.
The Soup Kitchen
Four years after his arrival at Saint Bonaventure’s the nation entered into the Great Depression. The friars already had a soup kitchen for the indigent, but during the hard times of the depression years the number of needy showing up daily for a meal tripled. The more the need, however, the more were the donations that came in. At one point the friars were feeding around three thousand people, not all at once of course, but as the poor and unemployed and their families had need. Father Casey had to spend less time as doorkeeper during these tough times and more time in the kitchen. One of the volunteers in the kitchen was Arthur Rutledge. He had come earlier to Father Solanus with a stomach tumor asking for prayers. The holy porter told him to get another checkup from his doctor and then come back and help feed the hungry. The doctor checked again only to find that the tumor had disappeared.
It was hard work in the soup kitchen, and although donations of food and money had a lot to do with Father Casey’s reputation, he himself was not a good fundraiser. One day he took a fellow worker down the street to a local bar for a break and a beer. The bartender handed the Capuchin a check for the kitchen. Casey got a little defensive and said, “Oh I didn’t come here for that; I came for a beer. You have a very good beer and you have a nice place here.”
The Common Life of a Friar
Somehow Father Solanus managed to keep up with all the choir obligations of the cenobitical life. He rose with the other friars at five in the morning, recited the divine office, offered his Mass, and put lights out at ten. What he did have a hard time with was common meals. Because of the visitors’ demands sometimes he was late for dinner, sometimes he could not come at all. Judging from his appearance and his tall gaunt figure one might surmise that when he did eat it was very little. He had the body of a man of prayer, spiritually chiseled.
Father Casey loved to kneel before the Blessed Sacrament in the quiet of the night. Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R, has his own recollection of an incident when visiting Saint Bonaventure’s. It was a very warm night and, being unable to sleep, at around 3:00 a.m. the visiting priest got up and took a walk, eventually arriving at the chapel where he flicked on two lights that illuminated the sanctuary. Father Solanus was kneeling on the top step of the altar: “His eyes were partially opened and his gaze was riveted on the tabernacle. His arms were extended in a form of prayer. He seemed to be totally unaware that I was present, or even that the spotlights had gone on, although they were very bright. . . . I observed him for several minutes, and he did not move at all. I was filled with a sense of both awe and embarrassment, feeling, I remember, that I was observing something that I was really not supposed to see. Eventually I put the light out and left him there in the chapel.”
For spiritual reading Father Casey’s favorite book was the four volumes of Maria d’Agreda’s Mystical City of God. It became a problem for his superiors when their porter started advocating that his visitors purchase the set. He simply didn’t realize how expensive the books were. Suspicions arose that the seller of the volumes may have been using Father Casey’s prestige to make a ton of money. Although he knew the man was not in it for the money, the humble miracle worker had to obey his superior and cut off relations with the dealer. Crosses like these were much harder to bear than personal humiliations.
So Many Cures
In his two decades at Saint Bonaventure’s Father Casey had written six thousand entries of prayer requests and notes in his logs, and these were was just a fraction of those whose petitions he found time to personally record. And to some seven hundred of these he recorded reported cures from cancer, leukemia, tuberculosis, diphtheria, arthritis, blindness, and other maladies. These brief postscripts also report conversions of fallen-away Catholics, Protestants, and favorable resolutions of domestic and business problems.
One of those whom he cured in the Detroit monastery was Clare Ryan. After his death she founded the Father Solanus Guild, which is very active to this day. She testified that Father Solanus healed her of stomach cancer in the 1930s and, twenty years later, of paralysis in the legs. Her legs had become so swollen that she could barely walk and doctors were unable to alleviate the condition. Soon, they told her, she would be in a wheelchair. Clare came again to see the Capuchin miracle worker. Like every visitor she took her place in a chair in front of his desk when he bid her to sit down. When she told him about the legs, he commanded her to stand up. Then, addressing the legs, he slapped them and said: “Stand up and do your job,” and promptly they obeyed.
Another one whose prayer request was immediately granted was Mr. Joseph Chabot, whose family has been long time friends of Saint Benedict Center. His infant son, John, became gravely ill due to complications from vaccinations. The hospital gave the baby cortisone, but then the kidneys failed and death was imminent. Mr. Chabot had heard about Father Casey and so he went immediately to St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana (where Father Solanus was then residing) to ask for the holy man’s prayers. After listening to the petition of the father, the porter stood up and told the astonished man that he was going to the chapel “to thank God for what He had already done for John.” John had been instantly cured.
In 1945, Father Casey was granted permission to visit his family who had moved to Washington State. The occasion was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of his parents. While there the three Casey priests offered a solemn high Mass for the golden jubilarians. Even though he was the oldest, Solanus served as sub-deacon, while Maurice (also a Franciscan) served as deacon, and Monsignor Edward, a diocesan priest, was the celebrant.
Father Solanus was now seventy years-old. Returning to Saint Bonaventure’s he was informed that, for his own relief, he was to go to Brooklyn and serve at Saint Michael’s parish. Do you think he complained: “What about my visitors, what shall they do if I am not here?” No, he had long resigned himself to humble obedience. After making an extraordinarily grace-filled retreat he was off. Brooklyn, however, was hardly the place to “hide” a miracle worker of Solanus’ fame. In no time he was discovered. Once again the old sacerdos simplex was relocated. This time it was his final assignment this side of eternity: Huntington, Indiana, Saint Felix Friary.
A Bit of Solitude and Rest
This was a good place, out in the country, and it did provide much needed recuperation for Father Solanus. He was still able to receive visitors, but there weren’t as many as the city location provided for. In his quiet time he would walk through the fields and marvel at the untouched beauty of God’s creation. One of his favorite jobs was to assist Brother Elmer, the friary’s beekeeper. It wasn’t the brother’s company that Solanus enjoyed so much, it was watching the fascinating industry of the bees. Brother Elmer, in fact, was not too fond of his renowned assistant, and he would occasionally mumble some insulting barb at the old priest. It wasn’t Father Casey that revealed this, it was the annoying brother. Although beekeepers routinely get stung and build up an immunity to it, on one occasion Brother Elmer got swarmed by attacking worker bees and he fell to the ground unable to breathe. Father Solanus ran to him and blessed him and the friar recovered immediately; he was forever grateful to his benefactor.
In 1953, on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee as a professed Capuchin, the Detroit News printed an article about the illustrious porter. The writer gave this description: “At eighty-three [he] stands amazingly erect, although his tall frame is gaunt in its brown homespun habit from many decades of fasting and self-denial. But his most striking characteristics are his eyes and his voice. The eyes . . . are the eyes of a man fifty years younger. At times they are shrewd and penetrating, but when he speaks of his faith they shine like the eyes of a child. His voice is low and warm and somehow it can make his simplest remark sound like a benediction.”
The Virtue of Recreation
The same was not the case when Casey sang. Pulling out his violin, which he loved to play for his fellow friars at recreation, often meant an Irish song was a’comin. Problem was that the happy doorkeeper had a terrible singing voice, which the impediment from his childhood bout with diphtheria only made worse. When the good friars could not refrain from rolling their eyes and cuffing coughs, Father Solanus would politely excuse himself and sneak down to the chapel where he’d entertain an invisible audience and his beloved Prisoner in the tabernacle.
Father Casey’s longing for heaven in no way affected his zest for life and commitment to his own physical health. Fasting, he knew, was not going to do his body harm, quite the contrary, so he fasted often; but he did eat enough, and that was it, enough was always enough. It may be rather strange to imagine a saint running up a flight of stairs as a daily routine, but, unless sick, Father Casey did that, even into his early eighties, until an ulcerous skin condition, psoriasis, left his legs so painfully scabbed that they lost all their nimbleness. He also loved to recreate with his fellow friars. While healthy, even into his late seventies, he was able to join the younger religious in games of tennis and volleyball. He even went jogging when no matches were going on. One may ask how he found time for these activities? Well, perhaps it was the physical exercise that enabled a miracle working octogenarian to give so much time to the flock of visitors who demanded his attention for most of his waking hours.
In 1957, Father Solanus had to be rushed to the hospital for food poisoning. After his release his brother friars noticed that he was walking at a slower pace and scratching his legs. Upon investigation they found that the skin was raw and infected so he was taken back to the hospital. The doctors concluded that the condition (one account has it as eryspelas, another psoriasis), was beyond treatment and were actually considering amputation. That idea was soon dropped however when the ulcers started to heal. During his recuperation at the monastery visitors still managed to convince his superiors to allow them a few minutes with the holy man. This was his greatest joy to pray for the healing of others and offer up his own pains for them.
There were a couple of trips back and forth to the hospital as the skin disease would worsen and then remiss. On July 2, 1957, he was readmitted for good at Saint John’s Hospital in Detroit and put on oxygen. His whole body by this time was one continuous rash. When the pain was most intense he would pray aloud without ever complaining. “My whole body hurts,” he told someone, “Thanks be to God. I am offering my sufferings that all might be one. Oh, if I could live to see the conversion of the whole world.” To his provincial, Father Gerard, he said, “I look on my whole life as giving, and I want to give until there is nothing left of me to give.” Recounting the visit the provincial told someone, “I looked at him there on his deathbed, clothed only in a little hospital gown, a rosary in one hand and a little relic in the other, and felt like crying out, ‘My God, there is scarcely anything left of him to give.’ ”
With all of this suffering he still kept his habitual sense of humor. When about to leave his room a young sister who was his nurse said, “How about a blessing, Father?” To which he replied, “Sure, I’ll take one.” When another nurse told him how she had heard so many people speak of him over the years, he responded, “Yes, people often speak of Jesse James, too.”
Thirty-eight year-old Gladys Feighan was visiting a patient at Saint John’s Hospital when someone told her that Father Solanus Casey was staying there. She had for a long time wanted to see the miracle worker but was never able. She had given birth to one baby with no problems but lost the next three due to her Rh blood factor and she desperately wanted another child. None of the staff were allowed to give out the Capuchin’s room number, but by the providence of God she spotted a brown-robed friar in the corridor. It was Brother Gabriel, the guardian for Father Solanus. After she begged for just a few minutes with the miracle working priest, the brother gave in and said he would ask. “To ask” meant “yes,” for Father Casey would never refuse a request for his time. Here are her own words as she recounted the visit for the book, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s:
“When I entered . . . Father Solanus was sitting at a little table. He welcomed me, asking me to sit down. . . . ‘What Gladys, do you want from God?’
” ‘I want a baby. Another baby.” Then she told him about the blood problem and her three loses, finally sighing, “Perhaps I am selfish.”
” ‘No,’ he assured me, ‘you are not selfish . . . Motherhood entails so many responsibilities — bringing up a child as it should be brought up is doing God’s work.’
“Father Solanus’ mind seemed above earthly things. He was ecstatic — so much so that I could hardly ask him a question . . . His words to me were of God’s infinite love for us, and of how we should place all our confidence in that divine, all-embracing love. As he spoke, he was trembling with emotion. Finally, he said, ‘Kneel down, and I will bless you, and your husband, and all your family.’
“Then he said to me, ‘You will have another child, Gladys. Your Blessed Mother will give you another child. . . . You must believe this so strongly that before your baby is born you will get down on your knees and thank the Blessed Mother. Because once you ask her, and thank her, there’s nothing she can do but go to her own Son and ask Him to grant your prayer that you have a baby’ Tears were in his eyes.”
Before her babies were born five years later Father Solanus had passed away. Gladys’ confidence was rewarded with twins.
Bernadette Nowak had the exact same problem as Gladys and the exact same cross. After her first child was born, she lost the next three from Rh blood factor. When she became pregnant in December 1956, she wrote to Father Casey asking for prayers. He wrote her a personal note telling her to “Thank God ahead of time” and to name the baby that she would surely have, Anthony Joseph, and enroll herself in the Seraphic Mass Association. When the holy porter’s body was laid out for viewing, Mrs. Nowak was among those waiting to pass by his open casket. As she did so, Anthony Joseph leapt so forcefully in her womb that her dress moved.
Nothing Left to Give
God was taking the humble healer by his word. By the end of July there was hardly anything left of Solanus Casey to give. The skin disease had consumed every inch of him and his legs were black to the knee. The Casey family was alerted that it was only a matter of days. When his sister Martha entered his room, his face lit up: “Martha, Martha, such a long trip just to see me?” It just happened to be her feast day. “When I asked if there was anything I could do,” Martha related, “it was always the same. ‘No, Martha, just pray for my conversion’ or ‘just pray the rosary with me.’ He seemed to know just about the time he would die.”
Father Casey waited until all the family had left the room before surrendering his soul. Only the nurse saw him pass away. He was speaking inaudibly with his eyes closed when suddenly he opened them and stretched forth his hands and said, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.” It was 11:00 a.m., July 31, 1957. It was fifty-three years to the day and to the hour that he ascended the altar to offer his first Mass. He was buried in the Capuchin graveyard at Saint Bonaventure’s Friary.
An estimated twenty thousand of people came to Detroit to pay their last respects and offer a prayer at his viewing. The doors of the chapel were opened at 5:00 a.m. and the line of devotees filed past his lifeless body one by one until 2:00 a.m. the next morning. One woman, with tears flowing, could not contain her anguish, “He was the best friend I had in the world. Some years ago I was in utter despair and just wanted to die. I spoke to him and began to live again.”
Mention was already made of the Father Solanus Guild. This organization is dedicated to promoting his cause for canonization. By 1964, they had collected approximately eight hundred accounts of documented cures attributed the holy porter, twenty-four of these occurring after his death. Add to these, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases of enmity reconciliation, saved marriages, conversions, business and personal financial solvencies, and all kinds of peacefully settled disputes that were the fruit of this one man’s powerful prayers.
The miracles kept coming. Finally, in 1976, after receiving a ton of testimony (literally filling two large filing cabinets), Rome accepted the worthiness of Father Solanus’ cause. In 1987, his body was exhumed from the graveyard and moved into a crypt in the chapel of the Capuchin monastery. After thirty years in the grave his body was found incorrupt.
In the religion section of the Keene Sentinel, a local paper here in New Hampshire, for June 6, 2009, there is the story of the cure of Ryan Blute, a young man who two years ago was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. The shocking news came on his fourteenth birthday, a few days after having a mole removed. Ryan’s grandmother belongs to a Father Solanus Casey prayer group at her church in Yonkers, New York. Casey had been the doorkeeper and sacristan at Sacred Heart Friary in Yonkers from 1904-1918. The Blute family implored Father Solanus for a miracle.
For a year Ryan was treated with interferon immunotherapy, but that did not stop the cancer from spreading to his lymph nodes, which the doctors then removed. Three days later the doctors did a number of scans to check the cancer. Nothing showed up. They did subsequent scans some time later — no cancer was found.
Today, Ryan is one of the top batters for the River Dell High School baseball team in New Jersey. Every time he goes for a scan he puts a relic of Father Solanus in his wallet. Even when he took his SAT exams Father Casey went with him. “When I need help,” Ryan told a reporter for McClatchy News Service as he held up the relic, “he’s always with me.”
I was saddened to read in this same article the update on the cause of Father Solanus given by a friar who lived with him at the monastery in Detroit. Capuchin Brother Leo Wollenweber, vice-postulator for the cause, told the reporter that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome has not yet accepted any of the Guild’s testimonies as miracles. I can only interpret that to mean that the Congregation does not have Father Casey’s cause for beatification as a high priority, not that the miracles themselves are in question; there’s just too many of them documented. Ryan Blute’s testimony might prove problematic in that he was being treated with the conventional therapy at the time of his cure. But there are hundreds of other cures, before and after the miracle worker’s death, that have no natural explanation.
Father Solanus Casey pray for us.