Franciscan Spirit Blog

Seven Days with Solanus Casey: Simple, Sublime Faith

Solanus (Barney) Casey was a simple man, a simple priest—not a man of letters, not a man of degrees—yet his thought reached to profound poetic and theological depths. Like a prophet, he was a man with a message for the future. That’s what the bishop of Marquette, Michigan, the Most Reverend Thomas L. Noa, said when he learned of his death in 1957: “Father Solanus has a message for the people of God.”

The message—always based in faith and trust in God, always consoling and encouraging, and bringing peace into troubled hearts—is embodied in the new and radical definition of religion Solanus devised: “Religion is the science of our happy relationship with, and dependence upon, God and our neighbor.”

He was profoundly aware of that relationship and dependence—that science—which continually unfolded in his own life. It began with a family that was steeped in Catholic spirituality and devotion.

The Irish Catholic faith was nourished above all else in the Casey home. This was something that Barney Casey never forgot, and something for which he ever gave thanks to God. Family prayer was a daily custom brought over from Ireland by Bernard and Ellen Casey and faithfully taught to their children. Solanus often described the way their father would get them together in the evening by calling out, “Prayer, boys, prayer!”

Then their mother would begin the rosary, and all took turns leading the decades. From his youth, Barney Casey developed a love for the rosary and resolved to say it every day. He remained faithful to this practice throughout his life and recommended it to others.

Blessed Solanus Casey was the living embodiment of the Franciscan Spirit, as Frank Jasper, OFM, explains.

For Sunday Mass the family had to alternate going to church because they were too many for their small wagon to carry. Half would go on one Sunday and the other half the next week. But those who stayed home would have their own devotions. They read the Sunday Gospel, and their father or mother would lead them in prayers from the Mass.

In 1883, before his thirteenth birthday, Barney spent a few weeks in Hudson, Wisconsin, at St. Patrick’s Church. There the pastor, Fr. Thomas A. Kelly, gave him instructions for his First Holy Communion.

Barney eagerly took to heart the simple catechism lessons and Bible history. God found fertile ground in the Casey family in which to plant the seed of vocation. Attending midnight Mass one Christmas Eve, even before his First Communion, little Barney wondered in his heart if he could ever be a priest. This desire grew little by little.

Eventually his older brother, Maurice, went off to the seminary because he seemed the one chosen for the priesthood. Yet Barney secretly wondered if there could be two priests in the family. His hopes were dashed when, after a year or two, poor Maurice had to return home because of a nervous condition that made study too difficult. Barney had always looked up to Maurice, and now he felt that if Maurice couldn’t make the studies, how could he?

However, the little seed planted by God in young Barney’s heart would continue to mature. Near the end of his life, he wrote to a friend who was struggling against all odds to open a hospital: “God, who loves tiny beginnings, will know as He always does know, how and when to provide developments.”

He would fully entrust his life’s journey to God until his last breath.

“Let us thank God ahead of time for whatever
He foresees is pleasing to Him, leaving everything at His divine disposal,
including—with all its circumstances—when, where, and how
He may be pleased to dispose the events of our death.”

Blessed Solanus Casey—

A book about Blessed Solanus Casey


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Franciscan Spirit Blog

Scroll to Top
Skip to content