The Church is always excited to welcome new saints and “blesseds” into her ranks, and the city of Detroit will be aglow this month as it prepares for the beatification of one of its own: Father Solanus Casey. The beatification mass will take place on November 18th at 4:00 pm at Ford Field in Detroit.
Keeping up with the Capuchins
Fr. Solanus’s story is unique because, unlike many wise and valiant saints, Fr. Solanus was outstandingly…ordinary. He enjoyed a happy childhood and he worked a variety of odd jobs before finally settling on a calling to the priesthood. Despite studying diligently through seminary, he never achieved the scores necessary for ordination, so he set his sights on religious life.
After moving to Detroit to join the Capuchin order, Fr. Solanus studied for many years and eventually received a simplex ordination. Though he was finally a priest, Fr. Solanus would never be able to hear confessions or preach on church doctrine.
At this point, Fr. Solanus was assigned to his role as doorkeeper. He took pride in answering the monastery’s doorbell. He greeted every guest with warmth and respect and soon earned a reputation as a great confidant and counselor. Over 8,000 people attended his funeral.
With no great accomplishments to his name, Fr. Solanus’s life could have faded quietly away. Instead, there has been a constant buzz of energy surrounding his life and death for more than 50 years.
Attitude of Gratitude
So what could an admittedly dim capuchin friar have to teach us about single life? The answer is in how Fr. Solanus addressed his disappointments and setbacks. Throughout his life, Fr. Solanus put forth 100 percent toward each of his endeavors. When it came to his true calling; however, his 100 percent just wasn’t enough. Talk about humiliating—but Fr. Solanus never complained.
His “attitude of gratitude” gave him a sense of unshakeable peace. It allowed him to find joy and pride in his small tasks and eventually led him to become a very dear member of his community.
Thank God Ahead of Time
One of Fr. Solanus’s most famous quotes is, “Thank God ahead of time.” My first reaction to this thought is, “Why?”
Why would I thank God right now, when my life is nowhere near what I hoped it would be? Why would I thank God in the midst of hardship, when all of my prayers seem to go unanswered? Why would I give thanks when God is so far away?
The answer lies in scripture; “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you…plans for your welfare and not for woe…” (Jeremiah 29:11).
God is on our side! He knows what we love, what we need, what we desire… He is putting the pieces together in the background of our lives and all we need to do is trust that he has it all figured out. Easier said than done, huh?
That’s where the “attitude of gratitude” comes in. If we can find a way to give thanks, even in the midst of fear, loneliness, and disappointment, we will encounter a quiet sense of peace. This peace will allow joy and pride to seep into the dark spaces of our lives and illuminate every corner of our hearts.
So next time you’re feeling down, try searching your heart for one thing you feel thankful for. Then, lift it up to God. Even if you feel reluctant, and even if your prayer feels forced, you will be opening yourself up to the possibility of grace, hope, and even love.
Courage, Therefore, and Struggle On
Although Fr. Solanus was endlessly hopeful, he was never naive. He knew hardships would come to him and to others. He knew there would be a string of failures and disappointments in his life, but he also knew that there would be joy. He encouraged his many friends and followers to take courage and keep struggling.
Why struggle through? Why commit to a life of letdowns? Because along with the pain comes indescribable joy. When we continue to walk toward God and allow hope to dominate our hearts, the blessings will be unmistakable.
“Many are the rainbows, the sunbursts, the gentle breezes—and the hailstorms—we are liable to meet before, by the grace of God, we shall be able to tumble into our graves with the confidence of tired children into their places of peaceful slumber.“
–Venerable Solanus Casey
Like Fr. Solanus, let’s trust in God and hope for a bright and blessed future. Let’s love and serve until we’re worn out, but full of joy. Let’s be thankful for all of the blessings that belong to us right here, right now.
And let us give thanks for the joys that are yet to come. Because in the end, “It will all work out.”
Fr. Solanus Casey, pray for us.