By Colleen Pressprich
As a Catholic parent, I love getting to introduce my kids to saints from all over the world, but it’s especially wonderful when I get to share a saint with them from close to home.
A modern saint who spent many years serving in Detroit, Blessed Solanus’s profile has risen in recent years, and I’m glad of it. This humble doorkeeper is a wonderful companion and friend to our family and many others.
Who was Blessed Solanus Casey?
Blessed Solanus Casey was born Bernard Casey on November 25, 1870, on a farm in Wisconsin. His parents were Irish immigrants of strong faith. Bernie, as he was known to his brothers and sisters, traveled and held odd jobs before listening to God’s call and entering the seminary.
His superiors did not think that Bernard had much potential. He struggled with his classes, which were held in either Latin or German, and Bernie was not fluent in either language. Because he only had a limited education, Bernard was advised to join a religious order.
He applied to and was accepted by the Capuchins, a Franciscan order. It was there that he received the name Solanus, after St. Francis Solanus. Solanus continued to struggle with his studies and was eventually ordained a simplex priest, meaning that he did not have permission to either preach homilies or hear confessions.
In 1924, Solanus was transferred to the St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, where he was assigned the role of doorkeeper. It wasn’t long before it was noticed that more and more people were coming to St. Bonaventure, specifically to see the inspiring priest who greeted them at the monastery’s gate. His quiet faith and motto of “thank God ahead of time” became well-known in the community, and even during his life, his prayers were credited with many healings and conversions.
Solanus died on July 31, 1957. His last words were, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.” Solanus Casey was beatified on November 17, 2017.
Fun facts about Blessed Solanus
- Blessed Solanus spent some time working as a prison guard. During that period of his life, he became friends with the Younger brothers, famous outlaws.
- He was instrumental in the founding of the Capuchin soup kitchen in Detroit, which still operates today.
- Blessed Solanus often appears in art wearing his trademark red glasses.
- Like his namesake, St. Francis Solanus, Blessed Solanus Casey loved to play the violin.
Why I love Blessed Solanus
I enjoy introducing my children to Blessed Solanus Casey because as a modern saint from our own city, he is someone that they can relate to. We can look at photographs of him, visit the monastery where he lived, and even pray at his tomb.
As a parent, I love that his life was a quiet one. Blessed Solanus didn’t travel the world or work huge miracles in large public settings. Instead, he humbly did the tasks assigned to him and allowed God to work through each interaction he had, whether large or small. No task, no meeting, no person, was insignificant to Blessed Solanus.
The other lesson that has resonated with my children is that it took time to realize what his gifts were. Blessed Solanus wasn’t good at school, he wasn’t a gifted singer, he wasn’t an athlete - some of the ways we most often measure success. But he was a gifted listener, intercessor, and friend. He didn’t try to be someone he wasn’t, and there is no record of him being jealous of any of the other priests he lived with who were able to do things he could not. Blessed Solanus knew that he could and would become a saint by leaning into his own gifts and talents and offering them to God.
Blessed Solanus Casey’s feast day is July 30.
Colleen Pressprich is the author of Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children. You can read more of her writing at elevatortoheaven.com.