Franciscan Spirit Blog

Seven Days with Solanus Casey: Relying on Mary

Throughout the summer and fall of 1896, Solanus prayed often that he might discover God’s will for his life. He asked himself, “Does God want me to become a priest?”

He sought out Fr. Eustace Vollmer, whose spiritual advice had guided him before. The kindly Franciscan reminded Solanus of the suggestion the seminary superiors had made: Try some religious order. Fr. Eustace advised him to write to the provincial superiors of the Franciscans, the Jesuits, and the Capuchins, all well-known throughout Wisconsin.

When Solanus received favorable replies from all three orders, he was in a quandary. While at the seminary in Milwaukee he had visited the Capuchins, who led St. Francis Parish and Monastery in the city. Their austere appearance, with their long beards and sandaled feet, did not appeal to him. What little he knew of the Franciscans and Jesuits did not seem to attract him to their way of life either.

The approaching Feast of the Immaculate Conception seemed to be an opportune occasion to seek Our Lady’s help. He asked both his mother and his sister Ellen to join him in a novena of prayer for God’s grace and guidance.

On the day of the feast, December 8, after receiving Holy Communion, Solanus distinctly heard Our Lady tell him, “Go to Detroit.” The nature of the vision or mystical experience he never revealed, but it did give him the answer he was seeking. “Go to Detroit” meant the Capuchins, because they had their headquarters and novitiate there.

Blessed Solanus Casey committed his life to doing God’s will. That was his chief priority, as Frank Jasper, OFM, tells us.

He never for an instant questioned Our Lady’s directive. He immediately began to make arrangements to follow her inspiration. The time was just before the Christmas holidays, and the family urged him to wait and celebrate the great feast with them at home. But by December 21 he was ready to embark on the new venture.

After a three-day journey by train through a steady snowstorm, Solanus Casey finally arrived at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit on December 24, 1896, Christmas Eve. It was an exhausted young man the friars welcomed to the monastery. Shown to a small room containing a bed, a desk, and a chair, Bernard sat down and wondered what Our Lady had brought him to. He stretched himself out on the bed and fell fast asleep.

At midnight he was suddenly awakened to the sound of bells and singing and the pungent smell of incense. The friars were being awakened for the midnight Mass of Christmas. Jumping up refreshed and wide awake, Solanus joyfully joined the singing procession to the chapel. In years afterward he often told of the serene happiness he felt that holy night.

Solanus quickly adjusted to the monastery routine. As the new year dawned, the novice master seemed satisfied with the new candidate. He decided to invest him with the holy habit of St. Francis on January 14. But now he felt some misgivings. Darkness troubled his soul, and he must have experienced a temptation to leave. Among some memorable notes he wrote on the flyleaf of his little copy of the Franciscan Rule is, “January 13, 1897. Dark indeed.”

Years later, he mentioned this spiritual struggle, and the peace that followed it, in a letter to one of his brothers: “The moment I entered the Friars’ Chapel to receive the habit, the struggle ceased and never troubled me again.”

“The Blessed Virgin Mary! Next to Jesus Himself, and always with Him,
may she ever be our refuge and our stay during this pilgrimage on earth.”

—Blessed Solanus Casey—

A book about Blessed Solanus Casey


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