“Father Solanus kept a prayer journal and put every person he met in it ... and if he met them numerous times, he’d list them every time.”
And so Kate Bryan’s great-grandfather appeared in Blessed Solanus Casey’s prayer journal several times. Suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, he was visited by the recently beatified Capuchin as he was dying. At the time, he was “really suffering and frustrated, and was anxious about dying and leaving his wife with nine children (ages 4-19),” Kate, a young woman who lives and works in the Washington, D.C., area, explains. “Father Solanus visited him on numerous occasions, and while Father Solanus didn’t ‘cure’ him, they say that my great-grandfather (and his family) had a tremendous amount of peace after Father Solanus prayed with him and over him.”
Kate and her sister attended Blessed Solanus’ beatification Mass in Detroit and said, “It was so powerful to hear the stories of miracle after miracle after miracle attributed to Father Solanus. And sometimes it wasn’t a huge, life-changing miracle ... sometimes it was a small, humble one,” like the visits to her great-grandfather.
If one believes in God’s providential hand in our lives, there can be no mistaking the timing of the beatification, just as Americans start to be busy about “the holidays,” at a time of such anxiety and incivility.
Kate had appeared like an angel on social media days before, offering a few extra tickets to the Mass — she and her sister having scooped up a few, knowing there would be people who would want to go, who strongly might have felt called to go, who might have missed out otherwise. Kristin Lewis and her father-in-law were among them.
As his biography was read at the Mass, Kristin, a spiritual director and a founder of the Sancta Familia Center for Integrative Medicine in Columbus, Ohio, encountered him vividly. She explains how, “I could see him greeting people, one by one at the monastery door with his long gray beard and wearing his red glasses. As I watched all of this in my mind, it occurred to me that just as a spiritual director listens to the deep recesses of a soul, Blessed Casey would listen to each person’s heart that came to him — one after another. He offered his compassion and his love, and then he would pray for them and send them off with hope.”
“He was a simple and humble soul,” she reflects. She was particularly moved by this quote of his: “We should ever be grateful for and love the vocation to which God has called us ... because, after all, what a privilege it is to serve God, even in the least capacity!” He was receptive to God’s will for him: “Accepting his role no matter how small it might have seemed at the time, always yielding to God’s will and becoming a docile instrument for the Lord ... God’s gifts were used in an extraordinary way through an ordinary and simple man as he became a small earthen vessel to heal the sick and be the oil of hope to the hopeless. He truly lived out what Jesus teaches us in the Bible, ‘But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first’ (Mt 19:30).”
And so we’re all called to live. Kate and Kristin’s experiences among those who gathered at Ford Field are a reminder that every encounter can be an opportunity for a miracle — God’s grace at work in us, as instruments. That Blessed Solanus Casey was the porter, opening the door, seems to be such a clarion call to us to be door-openers, to bring people to the sacraments.
As we decorate and attend holiday parties, let that be the gift we make of lives: In service of God, always leading people home to him.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).