Franciscan Spirit Blog

Seven Days with Solanus Casey: Holy Witness to History

Immersed as he was in the work of the Church for the salvation of souls, Solanus yet remained attentive to the times in which he lived. Daily events in the world around him frequently called for prayers of supplication, especially when suffering was involved.

The tragic sinking of the great ocean liner Titanic on the night of April 15, 1912, evoked this short, poignant note:

  • Giant steamer, Titanic, bumped against an iceberg, and the pride of naval equipment was buried in a watery grave with [over] 1200 passengers. Nearly 1000 souls were rescued.

Another sad entry of the same year recalls one of his altar boys:

  • Dec. 31st. Happy death of altar boy Martin Kennedy, at 3:00 a.m. Had served 93 times during 1911. A dear good boy of eleven years. Jan. 2nd. Buried Martin Kennedy—six altar boys [were] pallbearers. May he rest in peace.

The page beginning that year of 1912 has this somber note:

  • The old year closed with a dreary day—rain, snow, and fog—as though mourning at prospects it had to leave for the new year of trouble and promises of war on all sides and directions.

And this note in a lighter vein:

  • “Fr. Solanus shot [rifle] to scare a dog away from stable and sadly wounded the poor creature.”

Such little observations reveal Solanus as a man of feeling, attuned to everyday life. But often, especially during this time, his mind would go back to his family

Blessed Solanus Casey was very much a man of his time, but he has a message for us in this century.

Around the time of Solanus’ ordination and transfer to New York, his two brothers, John and Tom, began to practice law in Montana. They soon moved further west. Gradually the other brothers and sisters followed them, until all settled in Seattle, Washington, even their aging parents. Some of the letters written to his sisters and brothers show an interest in and prayerful attention to their joys and sorrows. Through these letters he remained close to the family he loved and who loved him in return.

While Solanus was at Sacred Heart in Yonkers, he had the opportunity to reunite with that fond family when his parents observed their golden wedding anniversary. It was a long train journey from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, but Solanus experienced great wonder and joy in the panoramic beauty of the vast United States. He joined his brothers Edward and Jim in St. Paul, Minnesota, and they met Maurice in Plains, Montana.

On October 6, 1913, all fourteen of the living Casey children, with spouses, children, and grandchildren, gathered at Immaculate Conception Church in Seattle for the Solemn High Mass of thanksgiving. It was a day of great rejoicing for this close-knit family. The three priest sons celebrated the liturgy. Solanus’ notes describe the event:

  • October 6th. Parents’ Golden Jubilee [with] Solemn High Mass at 9:30. Celebrant, Rev. Maurice Casey of Plains, Deacon, Fr. Solanus of Yonkers, Subdeacon, Rev. Edw. Casey of St. Paul. After Mass a beautiful and poetic program. In evening songs—old and new with original poems and music for the occasion.
  • October 7th. Mass in Carmelite Convent at 7 a.m. Bade good-bye to parents and friends, hoping to meet in Heaven if never again on earth.

As deacon, Solanus preached. His theme extolled the love and faith that these parents had shared with their children. He poured out his soul in praise and gratitude to the good God for such wonderful parents. These were words that spoke for the whole family.

This was Solanus’ last visit with his dear father and mother. Two years later Bernard Casey, Sr. died a peaceful death, surrounded by most of his children, and he was buried in the Franciscan habit of a Tertiary. Ellen Casey Traynor wrote her brother Solanus that “Papa looked just like you.” Three years later Ellen Murphy Casey followed her husband after a short battle with pneumonia.

“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.”

—Blessed Solanus Casey—

A book about Blessed Solanus Casey


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