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Those close to the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey recall a humble, holy friar

Detroit, Mich., Nov 17, 2017 / 05:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Before a potential saint is beatified, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

Those promoting the cause of sainthood for a candidate must gather witnesses and testimonies, writings and documentation of the candidate's life.

Throughout the process, evidence is brought before various tribunals (a type of court within the Church) both in the local diocese and in Rome, all of whom examine the life and works of the candidate and determine whether the miracles attributed to them are authentic, and whether their life constitutes heroic virtue, among other things.

It’s a process intentionally designed to take years, and those involved in the process come to know their candidate for sainthood in a particularly intimate way.

That has been the case for Fr. Larry Webber, OFM Cap, who currently serves as the vice postulator of the cause for Fr. Solanus Casey, who will be beatified this weekend.

The priest and Capuchin friar, who has officially worked on the cause for the past five years, said the work has led his own life to be marked by Fr. Solanus’ spirituality.

“It’s meant a lot to me” to work on the cause, Webber told CNA. “I hope I’ve always been a man of prayer, but certainly (this) has really deepened in me an appreciation for his spirituality and his faith which is marking my life.”

“I think many people who have had a devotion to Fr. Solanus over the years would say that,” he added. “There’s something about him that marks the way you pray, that marks your faith, that  leads you to a deeper relationship with God...especially in the Eucharist.”

The friars who lived with Fr. Solanus would often find him in the morning lying on the floor in front of the Blessed Sacrament, where he had spent all night interceding for the hundreds of people who had sought his prayers.

“His line was always, ‘Oh don’t worry, I sleep on the soft side of the floor,’” Webber said.
He added that while he admired Fr. Solanus’ “Irish wit”, he also admired his ability to sacrifice and be humble about it without being pretentious.

Sister Anne Herkenrath has also been close to the cause of Fr. Solanus Casey as one of his living relatives. She is the grand-niece of Fr. Solanus Casey, her grandfather was one of his brothers.

Herkenrath told CNA that she remembers first meeting Fr. Solanus as a teenager during a big family reunion. She had heard some stories about this holy uncle of hers whose intercession had healed people, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it all.

“Teenagers are sometimes skeptical about things like this, and I was a little skeptical about him,” she said. “I thought, who is this man? What’s he like? How do I act around him?

“Well he got (to the family reunion), and he was as normal as his brothers and sisters,” she said. “He was so normal that my (hesitation) just disappeared, I was very comfortable with him, and he was just one of us. He played ball with the younger kids, he talked with everybody, he was just normal.”

The family didn’t talk much about the specific favors attributed to Fr. Solanus, Herkenrath said. One of Solanus’ brothers, also a priest, had told the family that those matters were “between God, the Capuchins, and Solanus.”

It was only after his death that she became involved in his cause for canonization, and started learning more about his life. For her part, she helped gather some recordings of Fr. Solanus that her dad had made of him on some old 7-inch 78 rpm records - recordings of Solanus saying a prayer, greeting the family, reciting a poem, and singing and playing the violin.

“I’m still in awe of him,” Herkenrath said. “Again for his being so normal, and yet so in touch with God, so very in touch with God.”

One of the most striking characteristics of Fr. Solanus is his profound humility and acceptance of God’s will in all things, Webber said.

Never able to make good grades in seminary, which was taught all in Latin at the time, Fr. Solanus was only ever allowed to be a simplex priest for the order, meaning he wasn’t allowed to preach or hear confessions.

Instead he was assigned as the porter, the doorkeeper, at the time a lesser role usually reserved for novice friars.

But it was a job “he accepted it humbly, joyfully, and in that obedience and that humility, God transformed him into a saint,” Webber said.

“And I think many of us in our world today need that same lesson - humbly accept the reality you are given, joyfully serve the Lord in it, and he’ll make you holy.”

“(Fr. Solanus) once said to someone: ‘What does it matter where we are sent? Wherever we are, we can serve God,’” Webber added.

Another characteristic of Fr. Solanus that Fr. Webber said he admired was the friar’s pastoral ability to help people take life a little less seriously.

As an example, Webber recalled one story where some good friends of Fr. Solanus were returning from vacation, and they stopped by the monastery to say hello to the friar.

After chatting for a bit, the friends told Fr. Solanus that they were hungry, but they weren’t sure what they were going to eat, because the only thing they had left in their cooler were some hotdogs. It was Friday, and the Church at the time required the faithful to abstain from meat on that day every week.

“And (Fr. Solanus) said: ‘Well how long have those hotdogs been in there?’ And they said: ‘Oh about a day or two.’ And he said: ‘Oh don’t worry, they’re fish by now,’” Webber recalled.

“He had a good sense pastorally,” Webber noted, to take the faith seriously, but also, when appropriate, “not to take things overly seriously.”

Having a brother within his own community being beatified has also caused Webber to examine his own holiness and call as a Capuchin, he added.

“Being holy...it’s not just the vocation of Fr. Solanus, it’s the vocation of all of us,” Webber said.

“And if God has raised up one among us...that is being recognized for his holiness, that calls each of us to say, ‘Well, what do I need to be doing to be a little bit more holy?’”

Fr. Solanus Casey will be beatified on November 18th at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.

 

The quirky Father Solanus: Squeaky violinist, tamer of bees

Detroit, Mich., Nov 17, 2017 / 03:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- You’ve heard of Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves.

But have you heard of Fr. Solanus Casey’s multiplication of the ice cream cones?

To be sure, what Fr. Solanus is most remembered for his is gentle holiness, humility and obedience to the will of God in all things. It’s why the beloved Capuchin friar is being beatified this weekend in Detroit.

However, there’s something endearingly unconventional about the story of Father Solanus Casey - from the miracles reportedly worked through his intercession down to his breakfast habits - that makes his story especially unique.

The ice cream miracle

Fr. Solanus was a friar and simplex priest, meaning that, due to lesser academic abilities, he was not allowed to preach or to hear confessions.

But this freed him up for other charisms in which he particularly thrived - including serving as the porter (doorkeeper) at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, from 1924-1945.

As porter, Fr. Solanus became the main link from the brothers to the outside world, and he soon became renowned for the gentle and willing counsel that he offered, and for the miracles attributed to his intercession.

Fr. Tom Nguyen, OFM Cap., a Capuchin friar who lives in Detroit, recalls a story commonly told at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit:

On one warm summer day in 1941, a fellow friar in the novitiate came to see Fr. Solanus, in need of a miracle of healing. Something was wrong with his tooth, and if things went poorly at the dentist, the friar could miss too much formation and be sent back to the beginning of novitiate, as was the practice at the time.

The young friar sought Fr. Solanus’ blessing before heading out to the dentist, who told him to trust God that everything would work out.

While the friar was at the dentist, a lady who came to visit the monastery brought Fr. Solanus two ice cream cones. Too busy to eat them at the moment, Fr. Solanus shoved the cones into his desk drawer, much to the dismay of his secretary, who was sure they would be a soupy mess in a matter of minutes.

After more than half an hour, the younger friar returned from the dentist, his tooth found miraculously healthy. He went to thank Father Solanus, who pulled out three (not two!) perfectly frozen ice cream cones from his desk drawer on the hot summer day, which he offered to the friar to celebrate his good outcome.

The breakfast penance

Saints are often people known for offering up some kind of physical penances to the Lord - whether that’s wearing a scratchy hair shirt, taking on some kind of fasting, or sleeping on a hard floor. Even in this way, Fr. Solanus’ penance was uniquely quirky.

The friar was known for eating all of his breakfast at once - cereal, juice, coffee, and milk all mixed together in the same bowl.

In a story for the Michigan Catholic earlier this year, Fr. Werner Wolf, OFM Cap., recalled how he had been inspired to join the Capuchins specifically by Fr. Solanus Casey, who was still alive at the time. Eager to learn from the holy friar, Fr. Wolf decided he would watch Fr. Solanus very closely.

“So the first day I was there, I watched him like a hawk,” Fr. Wolf said.

“In the morning, the novices brought food to the older friars. First breakfast, I watched that man’s every move, pouring his cereal, the sugar, the cold milk, then warm milk, then prune juice in the whole works. I looked at him, telling God, ‘Father, if that’s holiness, I don’t want none.’”

Tamer of bees

Like St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans, Fr. Solanus also had a special relationship with animals - bees in particular.

On several occasions, witnesses recalled Fr. Solanus taming the bees that were kept by the Capuchin friars.

On one particular occasion, the witness was Father Benedict Groeschel, cofounder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Fr. Groeschel was visiting St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana, where Fr. Solanus Casey was stationed at the time.

Then a young Capuchin, Fr. Groeschel had also heard of the holy Fr. Solanus, and watched him closely.

One day, Fr. Groeschel and another friar were visiting the beehives kept by the friars, when the bees started swarming angrily.

Fr. Groeschel was instructed to get Fr. Solanus, who started talking to the bees and calming them when he arrived.

"He started to talk to the bees. 'All right now. Calm down. All right,'" Father Groeschel recalled in a story to Our Sunday Visitor. "And they started to calm down and go back into the hive.... I was absolutely in total shock.”

Fr. Solanus recognized the problem - there were two queen bees in the hive - and without the standard protective gloves or netting, stuck his bare hand in the hive and pulled out the second queen without getting stung.

He was also known for calming bees by playing his harmonica, which is now on display at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit.

A violinist of ‘more love than skill’

Also on display at the Solanus Casey Center is the friar’s beloved violin, which by all accounts he played “with more love than skill.”

He loved to play the violin and sing, a skill he picked up while still living at home. But he had a high squeaky voice that some friars found grating. According to one account from the Catholic Education Resource Center, one of the Capuchin friars had fallen ill, and Fr. Solanus went to fetch his violin in order to cheer him up. While he was gone, the sick friar asked one of his visitors to turn on the radio to deter Fr. Solanus from playing his violin.

In another story about his violin playing, a friar heard a squeaky noise coming from the chapel. When he went to see where the noise was coming from, he found Fr. Solanus alone in front of the chapel’s Nativity scene, playing and singing Christmas carols in his squeaky voice for the baby Jesus.

On the whole, Fr. Solanus’ quirks only served to make him more beloved among the people of Detroit and those who have a devotion to him.

“He was sincere, everyone knew he was holy, even though listening to him play the violin was a challenge,” Fr. Wolf told Michigan Catholic in February.

Over 20,000 people came to pay their respects after the friar died, and an estimated 70,000 people are expected in Detroit for his beatification this weekend. His beatification Mass will take place on November 18th at 4 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.

 

Commentary: Don’t buy fake agendas; defend the pope!

London, England, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years now, I have bemoaned the growing number of so-called progressive Catholic figures, in academia, the media and the outer curial orbit, who fancy themselves to be the Pope’s ideological vanguard, amidst what they have taken to calling their “intra-ecclesial battle.”

The agenda they push is an obvious rehash of seventies liberalism: a “progressive” approach to sexual ethics, acceptance of divorce and remarriage, recognition of same-sex relationships, “creating a space” for those who disagree with the Church on life issues. This rather tired agenda has been dressed up in the language of woke university students and twitter social justice warriors, but its core premise remains the same as it ever was - to push the fallacy that Vatican II was part of the cultural revolution of the sixties, rather than the Church’s answer to it. Their efforts are easy to spot, just look for the people endlessly invoking the council but never actually quoting a document from it.

Their main objective is to fracture the continuity and authority of the Church’s essential teaching on the dignity and nature of the human person, relationships with God and other people, and society. In this fight, they have identified the key battleground, their greatest enemy, and their biggest opportunity: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, from the moment of his election, has been a gigantic figure on the global stage. Through a combination of his personal charisma and the age of viral social media, his every soundbite gets attention and circulation that his predecessors couldn’t have imagined. Being seen to be “with” the pope is more powerful than ever before.

Conversely, being painted as “anti-Francis” is now the fastest way to find yourself beyond the pale of acceptable Church discourse - a far cry from the days when the progressive ‘cool kids’ seemed to take a juvenile kind of pride in forcing St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI to discipline them. Many of those who previously wore dissent as a badge of distinction have become the first and fiercest to label those they dislike, whether journalists, academics, or even cardinals, as “disloyal” to the pope, and opposed to his teaching authority.

Yet those who cry the loudest against the pope’s supposed opponents are themselves at the sharp end of a campaign of double deception. They insist that they are with the pope, or rather he is with them, and so to oppose them, on anything, is to oppose the pope. This is a falsehood.

The list of subjects on which Pope Francis is at odds with his self-appointed enforcers has grown to a comical length. In the last few months alone, Pope Francis has sided with the parents of Charlie Gard in defense of life, contrary to statements from the remade Pontifical Academy of Life, headed by Archbishop Paglia, and he has publicly echoed Cardinal Sarah’s call for a rediscovery of reverential silence in the liturgy, even as the Pope’s supposed-supporters demanded that Sarah be sacked.

Just days ago, the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann as chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference pro-life committee was railed against by prominent liberal Catholics, who shouted themselves hoarse arguing that this election was an explicit rejection of the pope, and of his entire vision for the Church.

Pope Francis has, of course, called abortion a “horrendous crime,” a “very grave sin,” and, just last month, part of a “eugenic tendency” against the disabled. None of this made it into liberal coverage of the vote, nor was it held to be a factor in the election of an archbishop with sterling pro-life credentials over another who once discouraged his priests from participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

This is a group doing everything they can to take the pope’s public image and message hostage, and replace it with their own. The extent to which these voices are trying to define a “Francis agenda” contrary to the clear teaching of the Pope himself would be laughable, if their spurious arguments didn’t seem to gain so much traction.

Their biggest success thus far has been the confected row over communion for the divorced and remarried, an idea the pope has repeatedly refused to endorse, even categorically refuting the claim that his call for “full integration into parish life” meant receiving communion. The motivating force behind this campaign has nothing to do with pastoral concern for the tiny minority of catholics in this situation, in fact many of them have been hurt by the confusion and speculation of this effort. Rather, the goal is to force a crack, in practice if not yet in theory, in the Church’s absolute adherence to the indissolubility of marriage. It has also served to successfully suppress any discussion of the actual content of Amoris Latitiae, a document which not only reaffirms the permanence of marriage, but actually endorses the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the great liberal bête noire of the last sixty years.  It also rejects, in stark terms, the great progressive causes of the moment: a softened stance on abortion and euthanasia, same-sex unions, and gender theory.

Successfully convincing huge swathes of the Church that the pope is in favor of the very things he has condemned, while the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, is the result of an incredibly brazen slight of hand, unwittingly abetted by the pope’s indifference to television and the internet. It has sown division and discord across the Church. There needs to be an urgent and unflinching response, one which takes true filial pride in the real papal magisterium and uses it to confront those who knowingly abuse the name and authority of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II for their own ends.

 

 Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

How US Catholics will mark the World Day of the Poor

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As the first World Day of the Poor approaches on Nov. 19, Catholics in the U.S. aim to amplify their outreach and their prayers for those in poverty.

One prayer for the day, prepared by Catholic Relief Services, invokes Lazarus, the beggar, from a parable in the Gospel of Luke: “Lord, teach me to open the door to Lazarus, to the poor, to know them as your children, to lift them in their distress, to work to help them find a fair share of your bounty.”

The relief agency has created a parish packet to help parishes observe the World Day of the Poor. It includes prayers, homily suggestions, general intercessory prayers, and a bulletin insert.

Pope Francis announced the first World Day of the Poor in November 2016. In his June 2017 message for the observance, he asked that Christian communities “make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance” ahead of time.

In Virginia, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington will host volunteer days, presentations, and events from Nov. 13-20 to help the community learn how Catholic Charities serves the poor.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is also encouraging the faithful to take part in the day.

“The Holy Father desires a real encounter with the poor in our midst, to reach out to them and invite them in concrete ways to share our life,” the archdiocese said Oct. 31. Ahead of the observance, Catholics should show “sincere efforts to show the poor among us the love and care of the Church.”

A prayer intention for the poor will be added in all parishes of the archdiocese for Nov. 19 Sunday Masses. The prayer asks that the poor throughout the world “may come to know more concretely the love and care of the Church, a love not with words but with deeds.”

In New Jersey’s Diocese of Metuchen, Bishop James F. Checchio has invited the faithful to the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi on Nov. 19 for evening prayer dedicated to the World Day of the Poor.

The event will be an occasion for community reflection “on how poverty is at the heart of the Gospel,” the diocese’s invitation said. It is also an opportunity for those who aid, care for and comfort the poor to be affirmed, inspired and sent out with “a renewed commitment to building a ‘culture of encounter’” and to bring people together with “tenderness and solidarity” despite their differences.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also created a pastoral aid for the day.

While the document acknowledges poverty of spirit, lack of love, and isolation, it focused on material poverty. Individuals, families and communities lack access to basic necessities like good nutrition, adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, good education, healthcare and jobs that pay a fair wage.

One of the USCCB’s intercessory prayers reads: “That we, the people of God, will open our hearts and souls to justice so that we will speak and act in ways that will eliminate poverty and injustice in this country and throughout the world.”

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization has also prepared a pastoral aid for parishes and schools to mark the day.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Nov. 7, 2017.

For Cardinal Parolin, Vatican II still benefits the Church

Washington D.C., Nov 17, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Second Vatican Council, rightly understood, continues to be a force for evangelization and renewal in the Church, according to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See.

Cardinal Parolin, speaking Nov. 14 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., reflected on the council’s global impact, its focus on the poor, its efforts to counter clericalism and empower the laity, and its efforts to re-emphasize collegiality among bishops.

“Today we can gratefully turn our gaze to the Second Vatican Council: if we read it and receive it guided by a just hermeneutics, it can be and become more and more a great force for the ever-necessary renewal of the Church,” Parolin said.

The cardinal said that given the global origins of the council fathers, the Second Vatican Council was the first world church council in a geographic sense.

“The consequences were of no little importance: the introduction of local languages into the liturgy, for example, and also the emergence of a theology of a ‘local’ Church are the emerging points of a ‘new’ Church consciousness that is historically realized in the most diverse cultural contexts,” the cardinal said.

The irreversable introduction of the Church as a “world Church” is part of the permanent importance of the council.

The council did indeed introduce “a new style” and grew from “new seeds, drawn from the source of Tradition, especially biblical and patristic.”

He cited Pope Francis’ emphasis on the style of the council. The Pope had said it sowed the seeds of “synodality” or “conciliarity” at all levels of the Church, affecting all priests and bishops and pastoral advice. While the “monarchical” figure is essential in Catholic theology, whether in the parish priest, a diocesan bishop, or the Roman Pontiff, this figure has been “happily completed and balanced by this synodality that brings about real enrichment at all levels.”

The Pope thought this “conciliar” style of the Church was one of the most beautiful legacies of the council.
 
Cardinal Parolin noted some commentators who see the council through a “hermeneutics of misfortune” that places on Vatican II “all the calamities of the Church.” To these, the cardinal cited Benedict XVI’s arguments against a “hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture” in favor of a “hermeneutics of reform, of renewal in continuity.” Benedict saw the council as having a prophetic interpretation. In the Pope emeritus’ words, its beneficial influence “preserved humanity and the Church itself from a crisis which at the end of the second millennium could have been much worse.”

Cardinal Parolin gave a lengthy exposition of the council, drawing on Benedict XVI, Francis, various commentators, and Blessed Paul VI.

The cardinal found in Paul VI “the idea of inheritance which is the passage of testimony from generation to generation” and also the image of “a flowing river feeding itself from its source.”

He also cited Francis’ description of the council as “a re-reading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture.”

Both Pope Francis and the Second Vatican Council emphasized the dignity of the lay faithful. Cardinal Parolin noted the transformation from a Church that had “the total concentration of every active function in the hands of the clergy” to a Church that recognizes “the right and duty of lay faithful to participate in the life and mission of the Church.”

Cardinal Parolin reflected on the importance of the “sensus fidei,” the “sense of the faith” in guiding Church teaching. He cited the discussions that led to the solemn declarations of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ahead of hese declarations, the cardinal said, “the entire Church was involved in a large-scale synodal process, where everyone was active, each in its own way: the Pope, who started and ended the process; the bishops, who replied to the Pope attesting their faith and that of the faithful entrusted to them; the People of God, who witnessed a faith that manifested the ‘sense of the Church’.”

For the cardinal, the “sense of the faith”  represents “a vital resource for the new evangelization.” He cited Pope Francis’ first Angelus address, which cited an elderly woman who said, “If the Lord did not forgive everything, the world would not exist.” The Pope commented on this statement: “That is the wisdom which the Holy Spirit gives.”

“The intuition of that woman is a touching manifestation of the ‘sensus fidei’, which allows a certain discernment of the things of faith and at the same time nourishes true wisdom and arouses the proclamation of truth,” said the Pope.

The Pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium stressed the importance of the laity, praising those with “a rooted sense of community and a great fidelity to the commitment of the love of Christ.”

Cardinal Parolin noted that the exhortation characterizes clericalism as “a sin against the lay faithful.” While in some cases the laity have not been formed for important responsibilities, in others the laity  have not found space in their particular churches “because of excessive clericalism that keeps them on the margin of decisions.”

Parolin cited Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro of Bologna’s intervention during the council, in which he linked the “mystery of Christ in the Church” to the “mystery of Christ in the poor” and emphasized the need for the council to be for “the Church of the poor.” For Cardinal Parolin, this was a very strong statement, meaning  poverty is understood “as the mode of being essential to the mystery of the Church.”

Also a topic of the cardinal’s speech were various efforts to reconsider papal primacy, centralization, and local authority. He noted then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s concerns that bishops’ conferences might suppress the role of the individual bishop.

At the same time, the council documents Christus Dominus and Lumen gentium discuss the collegial nature of bishops’ ministry and base these conferences’ mission in the sacramental origin of the bishops’ ministry.

“In other words, these conferences are really ‘episcopal’: they have their reason for being not in a sociological principle of collaboration, but in the implementation of the ministry conferred on each bishop with episcopal consecration,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Parolin’s U.S. visit included attendance at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall assembly and a visit with Vice President Mike Pence.