Sometimes listening to people becomes monotonous and extremely boring, till one is nearly collapsing; but in such cases it helps to remember that even when Jesus was about to fall the third time, he patiently consoled the women-folk and children of his persecutors, making no exceptions. How can we ever be as grateful as we ought for such a vocation?
—Fr. Solanus Casey
I’ve written several times, but only briefly, about
Bl Venerable Solanus Casey, the Capuchin friar who was reknowned for his simple holiness, his deep humility, and the fullness of attention he gave to everyone he met. Dr. Pat McNamara gives Friend Solanus a write-up he deserves:
Solanus’s superiors believed that his struggles with academic work during formation would prove an impediment to full priestly status, so they ordained him a “simplex” priest, one who could neither preach nor hear confessions officially. He performed rudimentary duties like serving as porter at the monastery. Yet Solanus fully embraced his mission and greeted each person with such joy and respect that it evolved into a ministry of hospitality and spiritual counsel. Because of his gentle nature, which put people at ease and encouraged even the despairing to hope, Solanus earned the nickname “the holy priest.”
Father Solanus’s caring presence and reputation for listening intently to each person also drew thousands to the monastery. “Do we appreciate the little faith we have?” Solanus once asked a friend. “Do we ever beg God for more?” Solanus counseled his visitors to do both. He welcomed alcoholics and the homeless in the same way he welcomed local dignitaries like Mayor Frank Murphy. By looking beyond the superficial—a person’s drunkenness, addiction, poverty, grief or uncouth behavior—Solanus showed people their reflection as “beloved” in God’s eyes.
During the Great Depression, unemployed men lined up outside St. Bonaventure’s asking for food; Solanus helped to provide soup and sandwiches. Soon the few dozen men the Capuchins fed each day grew to hundreds. Father Solanus worked at the soup kitchen, recruited volunteers and elsewhere begged for food and funds to keep the kitchen open. One day food supplies ran short and the staff became concerned that a riot might break out. Solanus assured them that God would provide and invited the men in the line to join in praying the Our Father. Within minutes a bakery truck pulled up, full of donations for the soup kitchen. “Nobody will starve as long as you put your confidence in God,” said Solanus.
A remarkable man who, by the standards of the world, wasn’t much to write home about. But the Holy Spirit always confounds the world by choosing the “lesser”, the surprising, the unexpected, to do great things. You’ll want to read it all. Pat’s got a great blog!
UPDATE: This is a year of prayer for priests, and accordingly, you may find yourself becoming acquainted with many over the next few months, here. Another one of my favorites (and another who, like Solanus Casey, was considered a perfectly average sort by “smarter” people, is St. John Vianney, also known as the Cure’ of Ars. That’s an excellent article over at Inside Catholic, and this is one of simple St. John Vianney’s pithy wallops of spiritual common sense:
The Father takes pleasure in looking upon the heart of the most holy Virgin Mary, as the masterpiece of his hands…The Son takes pleasure in it as the heart of his Mother, the source from which he drew the blood that has ransomed us.
– St. John Vianney (1786-1859)
I’d always known that Jesus had taken his earthly form from Mary’s own, but until I read that, it had never occurred to me that Jesus’ heart was nourished and grew inside Mary; from Mary he took his saving blood, and sparked it with his own Divinity. Christ’s blood was the blood of ordinary humanity, charged with the DNA of eternity, infinite goodness, love and mercy. The mystery deepens, our union is more complex than we appreciate. The wedding of earth-to-heaven, and the covenant therein, demanded the shedding of blood, but the blood was humanity’s, and the blood was Divine. An even deeper appreciation of God’s condescension, and Mary’s remarkable role as Ark of the Covenant begins to form.
St. John Vianney; A remarkable, gifted and holy priest, and another of my friendly prayer partners.