Franciscan Spirit Blog

Seven Days with Solanus Casey: From Holy Life to Eternal Life

Solanus’ digression on death in his letters reveals his own solid hope in the resurrection. In many of his letters he speaks of the beauty of death and how we should look forward to it.

For example: “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.”

Another letter has this: “Let us prepare for our final moment on earth by patient suffering, prayer, and the sacraments, then we will receive with joyful countenance the final call of the Divine Lover—the Bridegroom of our souls—and gently pass into eternity.”

Throughout his life he had fostered a healthy, hope-filled view of death. As a young priest in Yonkers he once declared to his friend Willie Spring, “Death can be beautiful—like a wedding—if we make it so.”

A letter written in 1946 to his niece Helena Wilhite reveals his confidence in God’s loving providence: “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—God may be pleased to dispose the events of our death.”

In his last days his prayers were, as usual, for the needs of the sick and troubled but not for the relief of his own sufferings. Now he longed only for a happy death.

Blessed Solanus Casey was never healthy. And even though he was frail in health, we was strong in spirit.

At St. Bonaventure’s Solanus was able to spend time in quiet contemplation without the interruptions of former times. In April of 1957 I had the good fortune to be stationed again in Detroit after spending five years in Wisconsin. I was happy to be with Solanus again, happy to serve him at Mass and in other ways. I was able to give him a little comfort by reading from The Mystical City of God when his eyes pained him.

As this last year progressed, his strength and stamina diminished. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 28, 1957, he said Mass privately in a small oratory next to the monastery chapel. Br. Casper Rodich served for the Mass and noticed what a struggle it was for Solanus. It was to be the last time he would offer the Holy Sacrifice.

He became so weak that four days later he had to be taken to St. John Hospital again. The erysipelas now covered his entire body. The only remedy for the burning pain was to gently bathe him with oil, but even that gave very little relief. The friars visited him as often as they could.

They marveled at his patient suffering. He never complained. A couple of days before Solanus died, he told Fr. Gerald, “I look on my whole life as giving, and I want to give and give until there is nothing left of me to give.” Another time he said to Fr. Gerald, “I am offering my suffering that we might all be one. Oh, if I could only live to see the conversion of the whole world.”

When Br. Ignatius noticed his sufferings, he said, “Oh, Father, you must be in great pain.”

Though very weak Solanus responded, “Would to God it were ten thousand times worse so that I would have something to offer God in thanksgiving.”

During his last few days friars, sisters, nurses, and friends were often at Solanus’ side. On July 29 Mrs. Martha Casey, wife of his deceased brother Owen, came from California to offer assistance as a nurse. When he saw her, Solanus exclaimed, “Oh, Martha, I knew you would come, and on your feast day, too!”

On the morning of July 31 Msgr. Edward Casey, who had been spending a few days with Solanus, thought he seemed to rally a little. He left the room to write a report to the family. About that time a nurse and an orderly came in to bathe Solanus with oil. When they finished, they gently laid him back on the pillow. They heard him softly whisper something, but they could not understand him.

Suddenly he sat up, stretched out his arms, and in a clear voice said, “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.” These were his last words.

Lying back on the pillow, he breathed forth his soul. It was eleven o’clock in the morning, at the very hour and on the very date of his first Holy Mass, fifty-three years before. The sisters and the doctors, with Msgr. Edward, were consoled on entering the room to see the look of peace on Solanus’ face.

“Eternal life: passing from time to eternity,
from transitory struggling for existence common to mortals,
to the destiny we trust,
where anxiety and struggling for existence give place
to confidence and union with every ideal ever dreamed of.”

Blessed Solanus Casey—

A book about Blessed Solanus Casey


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