Thank God ahead of time. This sentence nearly leapt off the page of a thin book of collected quotes by Father Solanus Casey that I purchased at the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. I was a young college student, and my faith was in its springtime as I embraced my singlehood to grow and mature in everything related to Catholicism. I only ended up at the Capuchin monastery, because my mother had invited me to a one-day pilgrimage there. Having never heard of Father Solanus before that day, I eagerly accepted her invitation without expectation of what might happen or how I might be inspired.
But Father Solanus’s life changed mine that day as I traced his footsteps through the building, feeling his presence strongly with me. It was as if Father Solanus came to life that day, and everything biographical about him captivated me in an instant. His writings, too, were simple and yet incredibly profound. I knew I met a kindred saint that day, despite the fact that he was not even beatified.
My mother’s interest in Father Solanus began with a casual conversation with her friend who owned the local Catholic bookstore in our area. He explained that Father Solanus spent quite a bit of time in his later years living in our diocese, which piqued her interest further. Then she heard some amusing personal stories from friends whose parents had known him, and somehow the camaraderie between Father Solanus and my mom was sealed.
I knew that day as I pondered his life and legacy why my mom asked me to join her. The depth of my affinity towards this plain and quiet Franciscan perplexed me at first, mostly because I was the scholarly type who enjoyed intellectual debates and analyzing research in my spare time. Father Solanus was nothing like me, but I was drawn to him. I wanted to be more like him spiritually: poor in spirit and pure of heart.
After that pilgrimage, I began to ask for Father Solanus’s intercession, but only sporadically. College and then graduate studies overwhelmed and distracted me, but his memory remained captured in my psyche. From time to time I would wonder rhetorically (and silently), How can I be like Father Solanus? How can I grow in such humility and with joy in being considered nothing?
You see, Father Solanus scrubbed the toilets at the monastery not only without complaint but, in fact, with great interior peace and joy. I couldn’t fathom doing such a thing were I in his position, because my pride was too great. But Father Solanus accepted what was given to him – whether it was bodily injury or a menial and demeaning task – with incredible resignation to the Divine Will. He gave all to and for God. That is what attracted me to his charism.
Years later, I found myself masked in darkness as I faced a dreaded c-section with our second daughter, Sarah, after an intense 24-hour labor. My pride in shambles, I wept openly in front of perfect strangers who prepped me for the operation. My heart was inconsolable, yet somewhere in the abyss of my fear, a tiny voice said to me, Say a prayer to Father Solanus.
Instantly I offered a silent supplication to my Capuchin friend in Heaven, and my heart was still and quiet. I sensed a Heavenly presence, though I uttered not a word to a single person, including my husband, Ben. And the operation not only went flawlessly, but I was told by the on-call obstetrician that it was “miraculous.”