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

November 17, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

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.

 

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The quirky Father Solanus: Squeaky violinist, tamer of bees

November 17, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

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.

 

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Report: US bishops choose delegates for 2018 Synod

November 15, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Baltimore, Md., Nov 15, 2017 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Meeting in Baltimore for their annual fall assembly, the U.S. bishops have selected their choices for delegates to next year’s Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, multiple sources have reported to CNA.

According to these sources, the delegates are Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the bishops’ conference president; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, conference vice president and head of the nation’s largest diocese; Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who hosted the World Meeting of Families attended by Pope Francis in 2015; and Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, known for his prominent new media evangelization presence. These names have not been confirmed by the USCCB.

The 2018 Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment is a global meeting of bishops to be held next year in Rome. Bishops’ conferences vote on delegates to attend the synod. After being elected, delegates’ names are sent to the Vatican for approval.

Cardinal DiNardo was born in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1949. He studied philosophy and theology, and he was ordained a priest in 1977.

He became coadjutor bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, in 1997 and was named coadjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston in January 2004. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals in November 2007.

The cardinal was chosen vice president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference in 2013, and president of the conference in 2016, a position that he currently holds.

He previously served as the head of the bishops’ pro-life committee, and he has also served as a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Council for the Economy.

Appointed in 2010 to shepherd the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archbishop Gomez heads the largest U.S. diocese, with more than 4 million Catholics. He is the highest-ranking Hispanic bishop in the United States.

Born in Monterrey, Mexico in 1951, he holds degrees in accounting, philosophy and theology, and was ordained an Opus Dei priest in 1978. In 2001, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver, and in 2005, he was appointed Archbishop of San Antonio.

Archbishop Gomez has worked extensively in Hispanic ministry and played a key role in creating the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL). In 2005, he was named one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States, and in 2007 he was on a CNN’s list of “Notable Hispanics” in a web special celebrating “Hispanic Heritage Month.”

In 2008, Archbishop Gomez was appointed as a consultant to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He has served in various roles for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in areas including Cultural Diversity, Doctrine, and Hispanics and the Liturgy.

In 2016, he was elected vice president of the bishops’ conference.

Born in 1944 in Concordia, Kansas, Archbishop Chaput was ordained to the priesthood in 1970. He was ordained Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1988, and was appointed Archbishop of Denver by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

While in Denver, Archbishop Chaput launched the local St. John Vianney Seminary, which boasts one of the highest seminary enrollment rates in the country. He was also influential in the success of several Colorado-based organizations, including the nationwide missionary group Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), the international women’s group Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women (ENDOW), and the Augustine Institute, a lay Catholic graduate school.

As member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, Archbishop Chaput is the first Native American archbishop. He has served on several U.S. bishops’ committees involving marriage and family, pro-life activities, immigration, and religious freedom. In 2014, Pope Francis appointed him to the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

The archbishop was chosen to lead Philadelphia in 2011. He led efforts to organize the 2015 World Meeting of Families, which brought Pope Francis to the United States.

Bishop Barron was appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 2015. He is the founder of the Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, as well as the host of the award-winning documentary Catholicism.  

Born in Chicago in 1959, Bishop Barron was ordained a priest in 1986. He taught as Mundelein Seminary, the University of Notre Dame and at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Known as a pioneer in new media evangelization, Bishop Barron has a strong social media following. He has published 15 books and is a #1 Amazon bestselling author.

 

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Black Elk sainthood cause advances with US bishops’ vote

November 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2017 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The sainthood cause for Lakota medicine man and Catholic catechist Nicholas Black Elk took another step forward today, as the U.S. bishops unanimously approved his canonical consultation.

The Nov. 14 voice vote of the bishops took place at their annual fall assembly in Baltimore, and is the latest in a series of steps on the path to sainthood.

The motion to vote on the cause was brought forward by Bishop Robert D. Gruss of Rapid City, South Dakota, the home diocese of Black Elk where his cause was officially opened earlier this year.

Even before his conversion to Catholicism, Black Elk was a prominent medicine man “widely known as a holy man and a mystic,” Bishop Gruss told the assembly of bishops.

After his conversion, Black Elk “fully embraced a Catholic life” and became an “ardent Catechist” who would go on to convert more than 400 Native Americans to the faith, Gruss noted.

Black Elk became “an icon who reveals what God calls all of us to be – people of faith and hope, and a source of hope for others,” he added.

Black Elk was born sometime between 1858 and 1866 and, like many of his ancestors, served as a medicine man, which combined the roles of medical doctor, spiritual adviser and counselor.

He was present for the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, and the following year, he joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which toured Europe, including a performance before Queen Victoria.

In 1892, after touring with the show for several years, he married Katie War Bonnet. They had three children. After she converted to Catholicism, all three children were baptized.

The year after she died, Black Elk converted to Catholicism and was baptized on Dec. 6, 1904, the Feast of St. Nicholas. He took Nicholas as his baptismal name because he admired the saint’s generosity.

In 1905, he married again to Anna Brings White, a widow with two children. They had three children together and she passed away in 1941.

During Black Elk’s lifetime, the practice in the Diocese of Rapid City was for Jesuit priests to select Lakota Catholic men to teach the faith to other members of their tribe as catechists. They evangelized, prayed and prepared converts in the Lakota language, traveling by foot or by horseback until automobiles became available.

Black Elk became a catechist in 1907, chosen for his enthusiasm and his excellent memory for learning Scripture and Church teaching. He was also one of the signatories of the cause of canonization for St. Kateri Tekakwitha, another Native American saint. He passed away Aug. 19, 1950 at Pine Ridge.

Last year, a petition with over 1,600 signatures to open his cause for canonization was presented to Bishop Gruss by the Nicholas Black Elk family. An October Mass officially opened his cause in the diocese this year.

Gruss said that Black Elk’s witness is an inspiration for both Native and non-native Americans, because he “lived the Gospel in everyday life.”

The next step in Black Elk’s cause will be for a tribunal to investigate and document examples of heroic virtue in his life.

 

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Sacramento bishop leads prayer after northern California shooting

November 14, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2017 / 02:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Notifying his fellow bishops of “a terrible shooting” in his diocese, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento led them in prayer for the victims during the U.S. bishops’ general assembly in Baltimore on Tuesday.

“I would ask if we could take a moment to ask God’s mercy not only on those affected by this [incident], but on all affected by gun violence in these times. Let us ask for Mary’s intercession for these people,” he said Nov. 14, leading those gathered in the Hail Mary.

“Mary, mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace, pray for us,” he added.

Minutes after learning about the shooting in Northern California, Sacramento’s @bishopsoto led his brother bishops in a prayer for all victims of gun violence. #USCCB17 pic.twitter.com/5YiFaIN5X3

— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) November 14, 2017

The New York Times reports that at least four people were killed at several sites in and around Ranch Tehema Reserve, a small community located about 130 miles northwest of Sacramento. Several more people were wounded, including at an elementary school. No children were killed, according to police. The gunman has been shot and killed by police, authorities said.

A sheriff’s office official told reporters the shooter was armed with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, and neighbors had reported his involvement in a domestic violence incident.

 

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