A Franciscan’s Franciscan

A Franciscan’s Franciscan

I’m a fire-breathing skeptic when it comes to Marian apparitions, statues, or pictures that weep or bleed, or holy people who seem too sentimentally holy to be believed. But there’s something genuine, I think, in the Capuchin Franciscan Solanus Casey, who died in 1957.

Maybe I like him because he grew up just across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin, a stone’s throw from where I live in the Twin Cities. We also both lived in Detroit, and the last time I was there I visited his grave on Mt. Elliott Street.

He was no scholar, and when he was finally ordained, Solanus couldn’t preach or hear confessions. Seems his superiors worried about what he’d say. So he spent most of his life answering the door, and people—lots of people—started coming to see him for comfort and prayers. But the reason they really came was because they saw Jesus in him.

Sometimes I think I would have hightailed it out of any order that treated me so disrespectfully. But Solanus seemed to know and live the difference between disrespect and humility, which is probably why he’s up for sainthood and I’m not.

Solanus was a faithful follower of Francis because he found himself, others, and God in embracing poverty—his own included. He lived in peace, sustained and loved by God in ways I can’t even imagine. He was a true friar minor, a poor man who walked the road with the poor Jesus.

Want to know more about Solanus Casey? Franciscan Media offers the following resources:

Meet Solanus Casey, by Leo Wollenweber, OFM Cap.

God’s Doorkeepers, by Joel Schorn

Thank God Ahead of Time, by Michael Crosby, OFM Cap.

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About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, "Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places" is available at catalog.franciscanmedia.org. He can be contacted at jjmch1300@gmail.com.