Local parishes can celebrate Blessed Casey’s first feast day

| July 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has received special permission for parishes in its boundaries to celebrate the first feast day for Blessed Solanus Casey, who has local ties, July 30. He was beatified Nov. 18, 2017.

“It’s a reminder to us all that saints are made of flesh and blood, and they are made of the same stuff as we are,” said Father John Paul Erickson, who until recently was the director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

Father Casey, a Capuchin priest in Detroit, was born in 1870 in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, about 15 miles west of Hastings. His uncle was pastor of St. Michael in Stillwater, where a young Solanus was confirmed. As a teenager, Father Casey was in the care of his priest-uncle and worked odd jobs in Stillwater, including at a lumber mill and brick kiln. A window at St. Michael bears his likeness.

A stained-glass window at St. Michael in Stillwater depicts Blessed Solanus Casey, who was confirmed in 1883 at the parish. Courtesy Liz Junker

Two of his brothers, Father Edward Casey and Father Maurice Casey, attended the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul and were priests of the archdiocese.

Father Erickson said local saints and “blesseds” — men and women who have been beatified but not yet canonized — remind people “that grace is present here, right here in our backyard” and “that we too can be saints.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda requested permission from the Vatican to include Father Casey’s feast day on the local liturgical calendar. While the feast days of canonized men and women are on the universal Church calendar, official observance of blessed men and women’s feast days are typically restricted to places where a particular devotion to them has developed. The Archdiocese of Detroit and Capuchin-run parishes may also observe Father Casey’s feast this year. The observance includes special Mass prayers and supplemental prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours, or the daily prayers of the Church.

As an “optional memorial,” it can only be celebrated on a weekday, and a parish isn’t required to observe it. July 30 is the eve of the anniversary of his death, July 31, 1957. An optional memorial couldn’t be celebrated July 31, Father Erickson explained, because that’s the non-optional feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality.

“You’re not going to bump Ignatius with Solanus,” Father Erickson said.

Father Casey didn’t take the spotlight in his earthly life either. He had simplex status as a priest, meaning he was not permitted to hear confessions or preach doctinal homilies due to his academic struggles in seminary. He served as the doorkeeper for the Monastery of St. Bonaventure in Detroit. People recognized his wisdom and holiness and came to him for guidance and prayer requests.

“Solanus Casey didn’t even have much status in the Church and yet he was the greatest of all … of his Capuchin brothers,” said Vincenzo Randazzo, an Evangelization manager for the archdiocese’ Office of Evangelization, “and it didn’t really show until after he died and people recognized what an impact he had on everybody he had met at the door of St. Bonaventure’s and on Elliott Street in Detroit.”

Randazzo grew up in Detroit and often went to the Solanus Casey Center there to pray or go on retreat. He has a third-class relic of Father Casey and regularly asks for his intercession.

“He was a saint for the simple, and … [his place] on the calendar should be a reminder to everybody for the importance of simplicity,” Randazzo said.

Deb Thielen, a parishioner of St. Michael in Stillwater, has felt the power of Father Casey’s witness. She attended Father Casey’s beatification Mass in Detroit, and she had been involved in a theater production about Father Casey. She looks forward to celebrating his feast day, and she considers it a blessing that it’s falling on the same day as her birthday.

“I think we need people to be totally aware of this man,” Thielen said. “He was at the door, and he was so holy that people flocked to him.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the ministry restrictions of a simplex priest. The Catholic Spirit apologizes for the error. 

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