Monday, March 15, 2010

Solanus Casey & Humility

One of the things I like most about the life of the twentieth century Capuchin, Father Solanus Casey, is his humility, and utter, even grateful, acceptance of whatever came his way, even the humiliations imposed on him by his ecclesiastical superiors.

For example, Fr. Solanus was Irish American, grew up in rural western Wisconsin, and while he was by no means stupid, because of his lack of background in German, he could not do very well with the seminary curriculum, which at that time (Saint Francis Seminary in Milwaukee) was all in German. So he graduated, but since his superiors were not impressed with his performance, he was ordained to the priesthood with limited faculties. He was told he would be ordained as what in those days was known as a simplex priest. So, for example, he was denied the ability to hear confession. He was thought to be unfit to deal with the people's spiritual needs. In all his long years in the priesthood, this was never altered. Ironically, his position as porter in the monasteries and parishes where he was placed brought him into direct contact with many thousands of people, who came seeking his advice and counsel.

At this point I would like to share a brief, and telling, account of an instance from late in his life. Even as an old man, with his painful skin condition, Fr. Solanus remained deeply devoted to the Mass, as shown in this testimony recorded by Br. Leo Wollenweber in his book, Meet Solanus Casey:

He found joy in attending extra Masses and even in serving another priest's Mass. Fr. Michael Dalton from Canada told of his happy meeting with Solanus in 1957, while saying Mass at St. Bonaventure's:

I said Mass in the monastery chapel, and a very elderly friar served my Mass. I did not know then that he was a priest. I was quite impressed when I saw him kneel and kiss the floor when he passed in front of the tabernacle. I thought it very devout and humble.

After Mass he took me in for breakfast. Taking me down a long monastery hall, he went into a room with the name "Fr. Solanus" over the door. When I saw who he was, I asked him to hear my confession. He is the only priest in seventy-five years who refused [me] absolution, saying, "I'm only a simplex priest-no faculties to absolve." He told me, however, that his work in the office, meeting troubled humanity, was similar to confession. He talked at breakfast of being a streetcar operator in his youth. At eighty-six years he was my oldest altar boy.


The Exiled said...

Fr. Casey's situation reminds me of many who fell out of favor with the LCMS and were thrown into the wilderness.

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Good point, Exiled. I think Solanus Casey is a great example for anyone who finds himself suffering ongoing indignities and humiliations. The Christian's calling is to be Christ in the world, and that means being conformed to His suffering.