Sunday, July 31, 2011
Everybody knows that July 31st is the feast of Ignatius of Loyola but I wanted to remember another American Saint who died 54 years ago today. I pray to him often because he always seems near to me and eager to answer my prayers. I am really sure Fr. Solanus Casey would be a good friend to anyone who asks for his help!
Father Solanus Casey and his 'favors' (Capuchin mystic)
by VIVIAN M. BAULCH
When Father Solanus Casey died in Detroit on July 31, 1957, all he left after 86 years on this earth were a small crucifix, an old pair of sandals, several religious pictures, a wooden statue of St. Anthony, some dog-eared religious books, a knot of heavily darned socks and a framed, 40-year-old picture of his family.
But he left another rich legacy — a long list of curious "favors" to an equally long list of devoted believers.
Father Solanus Casey had come to Detroit to be a Capuchin friar. During his years as a priest he spent time in other states, but he began and ended his career in Detroit.
The thin, bald ascetic with horn-rimmed spectacles and a flowing gray beard spent 23 years at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. He was a man of rare holiness. A mystic.
Barney Casey was the oldest of 16 children of an Irish-American family from Superior, Wisconsin. He'd already been a lumberjack, a prison guard, and a streetcar motorman. One day while driving the streetcar through a tough section of Superior, he came upon a drunken sailor stabbing a young woman.
"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.
"He saw...that the only cure for mankind's crime and wretchedness was the love that can be learned only from and through Him who died to show men what love is."
Barney believed the Lord wished him to dedicate his life to Him and he decided to study for the priesthood. But he was having troubles academically. Then he planned a novena, prayers to Mary in preparation for her Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception. He became aware of the Blessed Virgin's presence: "Go to Detroit," he distinctly heard her say.
Lugging a trunk, he went to Detroit.
In 1897 he took the name of St. Francis Solanus, a 17th century Spanish nobleman, intellectual, missionary and preacher. Six years later he was ordained.
Because he ranked only in the lower half of his class, his teachers recommended that his priestly office be severely restricted. He could say mass but was not permitted to expound from the pulpit on dogma. He was not allowed to hear confessions except under emergency circumstances.
He spent some time in New York, in Yonkers and in Harlem. Here began the series of inexplicable events that were to be linked to him for the next 36 years.
Father Solanus began promoting a prayer group, the Seraphic Mass Association, in which all members had access to the prayers of the entire group. He offered to help those in distress to fill out the prayer group's application card and in doing so he would listen to their problems.
Unexpectedly quick recoveries and remarkable solutions to their problems shocked and delighted the petitioners and the word spread. Father Solanus suddenly found himself very busy and his superior, Father Provincial Benno Aichinger, directed him to keep a record of these "special favors."
Father Solanus returned to Detroit in 1924, 28 years after first arriving as a novice. He stayed as doorkeeper until 1945, the year before he retired.
During his 21 years as porter at St. Bonaventure, he filled seven notebooks with more than 6,000 requests for help from petitioners. And to some 700 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 churchgoers and favorable resolutions of domestic and business problems.
Not all the requests were granted. Gertrude Brennan complained about a minor sinus problem to the priest. At the time he was in the yard of the monastery swatting flies with a fly swatter. He continued swatting during her complaint. She took his actions to mean that some minor annoyances were merely that.
His humility never allowed him any embarrassment when a sinner asked him to hear a confession and Father Solanus had to call for another priest to be the confessor. It did, however, bother a young friar who often was called. But eventually the friar came to see that Father Solanus wasn't bothered by his "lower rank." He simply accepted what God had allowed for him.
But his humility did not protect the other priests and brothers from his singing in a high squeaky voice while playing the violin. An ill friar once told a visitor to quickly turn on the radio because Father Solanus had just gone to get his violin to try to cheer the invalid, and he hoped the radio would discourage him.
The long list of favors granted included one to the Chevrolet motor company. In 1925 the firm was near bankruptcy when an auto worker, John McKenna, who feared losing his job, enrolled Chevrolet into the Seraphic Mass Association for 50 cents. Two nights later the company got an order for 45,000 machines.
During the Great Depression, the number of daily patrons of the monastery's soup kitchen tripled and Father Solanus joined the expanded efforts. Arthur Rutledge came to Solanus with a stomach tumor. Solanus told him go back to the doctor and check again, then come and help in the soup kitchen. The doctor found that the tumor was gone and the kitchen had a new volunteer.
But Solanus' was not the ideal fund-raiser. Once he went to a bar for a beer with a kitchen worker. The bar owner handed him a check for the soup kitchen, but Father Solanus 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."
Suffering from overwork, Solanus was sent to Brooklyn in 1945 and later to a farm area in Huntington, Indiana, where he received about 200 letters a day. He tried to answer the letters, but in his 80s and suffering with arthritis, the friars had a rubber stamp made of his signature.
Again and again, in his letters, he repeated his life's message — that confidence in God is the very soul of prayer and becomes the condition for supernatural intervention in our lives. "God condescends to use our powers if we don't spoil his plans by ours," he frequently wrote.
In January 1956, diagnosed with skin cancer, his superiors decided to send him back to Detroit to be near expert medical care. His contact with petitioners was restricted.
A novice recalled that on the last Christmas evening before the death of Father Solanus, he overheard the friar playing his violin alone in the chapel, singing Christmas carols to the Christ Child.
Father Solanus died July 31, 1957, on the 53rd anniversary of his first Mass.
After his death, Clare Ryan, a former Detroiter, started the Father Solanus Guild. Mrs. Ryan believed that Father Solanus cured her on two occasions: of stomach cancer in the 1930s; and 20 years later, of paralysis of the legs.
In the 1950s her legs began to swell, and doctors told her that she would be in a wheelchair soon. She consulted Father Solanus. "Stand up," he said. "Then he slapped both my legs and said to them, 'Stand up and do your job.'
By 1964 the local group had grown to about 3,500 members nationally. They wanted some action toward his canonization. In 1974 Brother Leo Wollenweber started gathering the evidence and filled two big, gray filing cabinets. TV programs told of Father Solanus, and in 1994, Unsolved Mysteries had a show about his "mysteries."
Finally, after 30 years, Pope John Paul II approved the reading of the decree declaring the heroic virtues of Casey. This gives him the title "Venerable," the first of three steps in the rigorous process toward canonization. If he becomes sainted, he will be the first American-born man thus honored. Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized in 1976.
Father Solanus was buried in a small plot on the monastery grounds. Later, in 1987, his body was exhumed, given a new robe, and placed inside the St. Bonaventure chapel in a crypt. Today thousands of members of the Father Solanus Guild and others carry around as relics threads from his brown habit in decoratively crocheted badges.
(Information gathered from The Detroit News files and from a booklet by Boniface Hanley, O.F.M. )
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
This is a post I wrote as one of my Sunday Meditations about a year ago on my personal blog, Daughter of the King. The Gospel for that Sunday was the account of Jesus visiting the home of His friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. I thought I would share that post here in celebration of both St Martha, whose feast we celebrate today, and St Mary Magdalen, whose feast day was last Friday.
These two beautiful saints, it has often been said, represent the image of the Contemplative (Mary) and the Active (Martha). Choosing the better part, I believe, comes when we learn how to be both, often simultaneously!
Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were friends of Jesus. The house in Bethany was a place Our Lord often visited during His earthly life. Scripture tells us that: "foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no where to lay his head." (Luke 9:58) But Jesus knew that He would be welcomed at this home of His friends at any time.
In today's reading we hear how the two sisters related very differently to Our Lord. Martha was always busy with the details of showing hospitality to their Divine Guest, while Mary, as always, was content to sit at His feet and hang on His every word. I sometimes imagine Lazarus in this scene in the background just rolling his eyes at the two of them. Our Lord gently but firmly rebukes Martha in her complaints about her sister's refusal to help; He tells her that Mary has chosen the better part. We never find out Martha's reaction to Jesus' rebuke.
During the evening of reflection in which I heard the meditation on this reading, we were given some quiet time for personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It was during this time that the thought occurred to me that our hearts should be Bethany for Our Lord. He desires each of us to welcome Him, give Him a place to rest, and simply sit at His feet.
I don't think Jesus was all that upset with Martha; he realized that the preparations she was making were necessary, but He also desired her company.
He desires ours as well. Our hearts being a Bethany for Jesus is a thought that has remained with me since that prayerful evening. It helped me to realize that preparing my heart for Jesus in Holy Communion is important, but once I have done that, He simply desires my loving attention to His Presence. The same holds true for my visits with Him during my holy hours. I don't have to spend every one of those hours in formal prayer; sometimes it is just enough to sit quietly and prayerfully gazing at Him in the sanctuary (Psalm 63:2).
My Dear Lord Jesus,
Come Divine Guest and find my heart a place of welcome rest. May You always find my heart and soul ready to receive You. May I never again neglect Your Presence within me because my head is too busy with the details of my day. You always felt welcomed at the home of Your friends in Bethany; may my heart be like Bethany, always ready to receive and welcome You.
May I prepare it as Martha did, then choose the better part, and sit at Your feet as Mary did.
Help me to be content in gazing upon You in prayerful adoration as You gaze lovingly upon me.
Thank You for desiring to be with me always.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
As a Benedictine Oblate attached to Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek, I receive their newsletters regularly. This past week the newsletter announced that the monastery is going to serve as "home base" for Father Giovanni Salerno's "Friends of the Missionary Servants of the Poor of the Third World." Father Salerno's mission is in Peru and the good Benedictines treated us to a letter he wrote containing a story of a young girl that I want to share.
None of us can forget Natividad. She was from a family of eleven children who were and still are very poor. We accepted the five younger siblings of Natividad, but we were not going to accept her because she could help her mother at home, finding firewood and carrying water. Regardless, she came every day to the cafeteria to help with the catechesis for those about to make their first communion. One day, Natividad left the cafeteria and did not return home. Her mother came to us very concerned, asking about her, and we were all very surprised that she had not made it home. We searched for her all night, and the following day we found her on the bank of a river, dead with marks suggesting that she had been strangled. You can imagine the suffering of her parents, especially her mother who seemed inconsolable.
One morning the mother came to give us good news. The night before she had a dream in which she saw Natividad, dressed in white in the middle of a field of lilies, who told her: "Do not cry, I am well and I can help you more than before. Now I will tell you what happened so you can give testimony: While I was waiting for the bus to return home, some youths kidnapped me and took me to an abandoned house next to the river. There they got drunk while I was tied up. Then, one tried to abuse me, but I saw what he wanted to do, and I was able to pull scissors from my book bag and defend my purity; he was so angry he strangled me. Go to the abandoned house and in the bushes next to the river you will find the scissors and the cord they used to strangle me." The mother went to the house and found the things, just as Natividad had said.
The rest of the girls from the cafeteria found out what happened, and they saw a great similarity between Natividad and St. Maria Goretti, who had also died in defense of her purity. They decided, then, to form a group called "St. Maria Goretti" and they would have Natividad as their intercessor. The group was founded for girls to vow to Jesus that they would live lives of the holy virtue of purity. When the time came to open our schools, we wanted to put the girls' school under the protection of St. Maria Goretti, so as to offer her life as an example of holiness and to remember the life of the girl who had lived among us - Natividad - as one who had been able to live like the Saint.
Many people in today's world would scoff at the idea of preserving purity. I think this story illustrates one of the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God." Those who scoff do not care about seeing God. But good parents and grandparents will not proffer the spirit of this world to their children. They will see that their children keep good company rather than bad and help them grow in virtue. They will never accept "everybody else is doing it" as a reason to sin. They will protect the purity of the young ones and point them to the kind of children like Natividad who preferred death rather than sin as inspiration.
Monday, July 25, 2011
"Dear children! May this time be for you a time of prayer and silence. Rest your body and spirit, may they be in God’s love. Permit me, little children, to lead you, open your hearts to the Holy Spirit so that all the good that is in you may blossom and bear fruit one hundred fold. Begin and end the day with prayer with the heart. Thank you for having responded to my call."
During his homily yesterday, my pastor offered a commentary regarding this passage that was a true "epiphany" for me.
Often, I think this passage is misinterpreted to mean that "good things happen to us when we love God".
Some relate this verse to "All things happen for a reason".
What my pastor stressed, in sharing his thoughts, and what I had NOT paid much attention to before now, is the word "ALL". "We know that ALL things..."
"This means", said my pastor, "the joys AND the sufferings...the good times AND the trials....the feel-good days AND the sorrows and challenges....ALL things work together for good".
Perhaps it's just me, small, imperfect, finite, and not always the sharpest tack in the tool shed...but I had never considered it quite that way.
It's beautiful, isn't it?
It goes right along with the "Redemptive Suffering" that we discussed last week on this blog.
ALL things work for good for those who love God.
Without Christ, without His Sacrifice, without His Redeeming Grace, our bad days are just that: BAD DAYS.
But Romans 8:28 offers a whole new outlook on that, doesn't it?
Trusting in God's Word means that even our "bad days" are, for those of us who love God, "good days".
Each challenge, each trial, each sorrow, each test, each suffering, is working WITH each joy, each success, each adventure, each happy moment, and each celebration...ALL things...together...work for the GOOD.
I hope this thought brings you comfort, as it did me.
first posted 7/24/11 on Thoughts on Grace blog
Sunday, July 24, 2011
I have "met" recently through the Internet a priest who manages a great website. I urge you to visit him soon. Meanwhile, he has kindly agreed to share with us his homily for this weekend. Hence my posting again today.
Here is what Father Paul Wharton has to say:
The parables today give us a glimpse, a taste, a sense
Praise the Lord that our first faltering steps into this new venture have, so far, proved successful. Long may we continue, God willing.
I've been thinking how we can improve our humble offerings further. Here are some thoughts:
1 Each one of us can encourage more readers by mentioning this Blog on our own personal Blogs every now and then. Perhaps a special posting or a mention about something we've contributed here or that someone else has contributed.
2 We can also encourage our personal readers to carry our Community Badge on their Blogs with a link to us.
3 When commenting on other peoples' Blogs we could perhaps, tactfully and politely, mention the Community Blog and encourage visitors here.
4 We can help each other by not crowding each other. By this I mean let us not post several contributions on the same day; but hold back when someone else has already contributed on a particular day. We can do this by checking for any already sheduled posts to be published on a certain day. By posting only one contribution a day we don't crowd our followers with too many posts together then nothing for a few days.
Also, some directories, (like one we've joined in the UK), feature each of our posts as they appear here - including any pictures we may post, in order to attract and direct readers to us. If several of us post on the same day the directory may feature each contribution for a short time only.
5 I hesitate with my next suggestion because it requires work. And here may I publicly thank Mary and Karinann for all the good work they have done to start this Blog and maintain it.
Some Blogs, like Karinann's, have a feature on top of the page where you can click and link to various hidden pages. Should we have such a feature entitled "Meet the Authors" where each one of us writes a short resume of who we are?
Anyway, enough for now. My brain can only handle five items at a time and I've mentioned them above. Further contributions from anyone are welcome.
Meantime, Congratulations everyone on reaching 50 and may God bless us all and our endeavours.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Since we have so many writers and quite a few posts from this week, just click on our blog title and scroll through the writings as you please. And thanks for visiting. We hope you enjoy our work.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Picture source Sophia Institute Press. The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur can be ordered from them.
I am currently reading a book I have looked forward to reading for a very long time. This secret diary of Elisabeth Leseur is indeed a spiritual treasure. The following is an excerpt:
"To do each day, humbly, and so that God alone may see it, all the good that one can do; always to seek out all the misery and grief within reach in order to relieve them; to cultivate in oneself a lively sympathy for everyone; and to do all this for God alone - that is the goal of all human existence."
page 10 of the diary.
I started college as a Psychology major only to switch to business, Management Information Systems, because it was going to be important to be making money after four years at Notre Dame (85-89), even if the tuition was a small fraction of what it is now. As I entered the work world, as a programmer analyst, I was finding a problem reconciling spending long hours programming on a green screen with serving Christ.
By my third job, 4.5 years out of school, I was working on a gal's computer one night when I noticed she had this verse hanging just past her computer monitor on the wall of her cubicle.
|Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta|
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 Corinthians 10:24,31|
Nobody should be looking for his own advantage, but everybody for the other man’s. Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it for the glory of God.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Colossians 3:17|
Never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Colossians 3:23-24|
Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
The School of the Family Book Review
Chantal R. Howard delves into her own personal journey through her upbringing by a free spirited mom who left the family "to discover the spirit that was leading her" and then returned a devoted Catholic wife and mother. Her father was an adventure seeking young man who wanted to party and live the good life. He too, was raised Catholic yet "his faith was just lessons learned, not a life that was lived." Both her parents yearned to find what they were missing and their conversion led them both back to the Catholic Church and they did so with zeal. They raised their six children in the faith and Chantal's life blossomed by being centered in Jesus Christ and living a sacramental life.
Chantal's life was "the school of the family" in practice with daily mass, Catholic Faith Formation, homeschooling, family business, athletics, world travel, discernment of vocation and the death of her father. Her mother's devotion to Jesus and her vocation of wife and mother; so inspired Chantal that she is currently homeschooling her own four children with her husband, Dr. Peter Howard a theologian who is the founder and President of the Fulton Sheen Society and Director of the Catholic Hour Movement.
Chantal's memoir includes her own struggles with marriage and having to learn to keep her eyes on Jesus to guide her through their marital and familial challenges. Her role model for mothering is Mary and she desires "to allow the grace of God to make up for her insufficiencies." She discusses the challenges all mothers face in this secular society and how we are called "to live this art of love by offering our bodies as sanctuaries to our unborn children, setting our careers aside, giving our hearts away in love, and laying down our lives for the sake of our children. This is the hidden life of sacrifice that holds the mighty power to help us and our children triumph over this world and live secure in grace. If we choose to be like Mary, embracing our vocation in the light of the Holy Spirit, then our way of salvation as mothers is secure."
Not only is this Chantal's story but she gives her reader "The Family Rule" to help others keep their lives focused on their spiritual goals. She reminds us that The Holy Family is our shining example of how to live virtuous and holy lives. She included a marital examination of conscience "to evaluate whether we are actually loving our spouse." Her "Family Rule" emphasizes the ideal method in raising a family rooted in the power of Christ. She admits it's not easy and her book should be considered a "survival manual." It is chock-full of insights from the great writings of the saints and Pope John Paul II on how "to protect our families against the attacks of the devil so they will bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God."
Whether we like it or not, the family is a school by which our children learn what values the parents truly believe, what level of priority is Jesus in their lives and whether they embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church. Chantal advises "it is our duty as parents to provide the family life that challenges our young people to live in virtue, preparing them to enter into good, holy friendships and ultimately into friendship with God." I would highly recommend her book,The School of the Family for it's many informational and thought provoking insights. You can purchase her book at Tiber River Company and learn more about Chantal Howard at her own website The School of the Family.
I was given a free copy of this book to review from The Tiber River Company. I received no monetary compensation for this review.
Let’s consider for a moment we’re on a stage. What part does God want you to play? Are you in a leading role? Centre stage? A great Christian orator, writer, pastor, celebrity or role model?
Or have you only got a minor part? Waiting on the side-lines, behind the curtains, for your time to be in the spotlight?
Whatever role God has given us in this life to witness on His behalf and to spread His Word; we’d better be ready because this is the most important task we’re ever asked to perform in this one life which we have.
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-20
Monday, July 18, 2011
The length of time after Pentecost is the longest season of the liturgical year, the time when also we contemplate the Holy Spirit working in the baptized and confirmed person to bring the soul to oneness with God, following the example of Jesus.
Surrender of our will is essential to the action of the Holy Spirit in us, yet our human weakness resists mightily. Like two year olds, we want what we want when we want it and the way we want it. When the Spirit meets this kind of resistance in our hearts, He desists from the work of our sanctification because He will not do violence to our liberty. He is the Spirit of love, desiring that we participate lovingly in His work. To receive His graces we must yield willingly. It matters not what our feelings are - overcoming reluctance, resistance, fear, anger, and other negative emotions is all about our will. We may feel abhorrence in giving up pleasures and certain habits we are accustomed to, but our will to do it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is true love of God and opens our souls to even greater graces.
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. writes in Divine Intimacy:
By giving us grace, without which we could have done nothing to attain sanctity, the Holy Spirit inaugurated His work in us: He elevated us to the supernatural state. Grace comes from God; it is a gift from all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity: a gift created by the Father, merited by the Son in consequence of His Incarnation, Passion, and death, and diffused in our souls by the Holy Spirit. But it is to the latter, to the Spirit of love, that the work of our sanctification is attributed in a very special manner. When we were baptized we were justified "in t he name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"; nevertheless, Sacred Scripture particularly attributes this work of regeneration and divine filiation to the Holy Spirit.
We can only walk the narrow path to sanctity by the grace of God. In this time of the Holy Spirit, it makes sense to think deeply about being a saint - being what we were created to be. Some questions that demand honest answers regarding the action of the Holy Spirit in us are:
What am I attached to that is keeping me from growing in being Christlike?
Do I spend time in prayer every day?
With what disposition do I assist at Mass? Is it just something I do to "get it over with so I can do what I want to do"? Am I seeking a greater understanding of the meaning of the Mass?
Do I seek an ever deeper understanding of the teachings of the Church and think about why God wants me to live according to them?
What am I lying to myself about in how I am living my life?
What kind of books am I reading, TV shows do I watch, movies do I see? Do they make me desire the salvation of souls, including my own? Do they bring joy and true relaxation, inspiration and peace to my heart or do they aid in enslavement to sin?
Do the people I associate with lead me into sin?
What kind things am I doing for others in my life?
What penances and sacrifices do I make to train my will and please God?
Am I willing to surrender even my life with a generous heart if God asks for it?
Until the end of the world, we are in the time of the Holy Spirit. Let's all submit our wills to the action of the Holy Spirit every day in every little way that we can so that this world will be a better place to live, we may save our souls, and many more saints will be raised up to glorify God.