5 Facts About Blessed Solanus Casey’s Simple & Remarkable Life

5 Facts About Blessed Solanus Casey’s Simple & Remarkable Life

Blessed Solanus Casey was a humble Capuchin priest whose soft-spoken voice was a powerful force in the hearts of those who came to him for help. His counsel and prayers were said to bring peace, comfort, and healing. From his humble beginning on the American frontier to his beatification, his life is an example of holiness and a special inspiration for everyday Catholics. Here are five fascinating facts about Blessed Solanus, whose feast day is July 30th.

1. He lived a simple family life as the child of Irish immigrants. 

Blessed Solanus Casey was born the sixth of sixteen children. He was known as “Barney” to his family. His parents, Bernard and Ellen, emigrated separately from Ireland to the US during the great famine in Ireland.

After meeting in Maine then moving to Massachusetts, the Caseys settled in Oak Grove, Wisconsin when President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act of 1862. The act offered millions of people free farm land to encourage westward migration.

The Casey children consisted of ten boys and six girls. They farmed the frontier in Oak Grove, where Barney grew up. 
Barney’s family practiced a simple faith on the American frontier. Solanus carried that simplicity into everything he did for the rest of his 95 years. He lived in great humility and simplicity from his childhood on the farm in Wisconsin to his death in Detroit, Michigan in 1957.

2. He was a humble Capuchin priest.

At the age of 12, while in First Communion class at St. Patrick’s in Hudson, Wisconsin, young Barney began to feel called to the priesthood. At Christmas Midnight Mass, he wondered if he could ever become a priest. 

He worked as a logger, streetcar operator, prison guard, and hospital orderly while discerning whether to apply to the Jesuits or Franciscans. He said he heard the Blessed Mother tell him clearly to go to Detroit, where the Capuchins were based. He entered their novitiate at the age of 21. 

He took the name Francis Solanus, after a 17th-century Spanish Franciscan missionary saint, with whom he shared a love for playing the violin. Francis struggled academically. Twelve years later he was ordained a “simplex priest,” meaning he was not allowed to preach or hear confessions because of his academic performance. 

This was a humiliation, especially because two of his brothers were priests, who, along with his classmates, enjoyed full faculties. He maintained that it was the will of God for him to remain a simplex priest and humbly accepted it all his life. 

Whenever anyone asked him about being ordained without full faculties, he replied simply and peacefully: 

“In order to practice humility we must experience humiliations.”

3. He served the poor in simplicity.

Bl. Solanus served in Yonkers, New York; New York City; Detroit, Michigan; and Huntington, Indiana. He was the porter, or the doorman, for his friaries. This meant he had consistent contact with the poor as they came to the door for food and assistance.

During the Great Depression, he offered them not only soup, bread, and sandwiches, but compassionate counsel for their spiritual, emotional, and physical struggles.

He co-founded the Capuchin Soup Kitchen that still exists in Detroit today. There he would hand out sandwiches, soup, and coffee while counseling, listening, praying with, and caring for the poor and unemployed. 

At the request of his superiors, he began to record healings and miracles which filled several notebooks. People lined up for hours to speak to this humble servant of God and took his gentle and loving counsels to heart. 

Though he could not hear confessions or preach formal homilies, he comforted, advised, and offered the love of Christ to many at the doors of the friary and soup kitchen. For this gentleness and compassion, he was beloved by all who knew him, most especially the poor. 

4. He was called “a replica of Francis” whose hallmark was gratitude.

Consistently throughout his letters, statements, and writings, the theme of gratitude is repeated with great feeling. 

Whenever he was thanked for any favor, by his brothers or the poor whom he served, he replied, “Thanks be to God!” with great love and devotion. 

He often counseled others to “Thank God ahead of time.”

He advised them to have holy confidence in what God could do and to be grateful for whatever God was doing, regardless of whether they understood it in the moment. 

Though he was a man of many virtues, his written correspondence is filled with his thoughts on the importance of gratitude. 

If the enemy of our soul is pleased at anything in us, it is ingratitude of any kind. Why? Ingratitude leads to so many breaks with God and our neighbor.

Bl. Solanus Casey

He lived in a state of constant thankfulness and encouraged others to do the same, no matter their circumstances. 

5. He was revered as saintly before his cause was opened.

Death is the climax of all humiliation—when we must finally give up all and turn all over to God. Death can be very beautiful—like a wedding—if we make it so.

Bl. Solanus Casey

Bl. Solanus Casey died in 1957 at the age of 95 at St. John’s Hospital on Detroit’s east side. Many mourned this humble friar who had brought them peace, comfort, and healing in the simplest ways.

After his death, so many patients at St. John’s Hospital requested to be placed in Solanus’s room that the hospital decided to turn it into an administrative office so it would not be such a distraction or spectacle. 

A plaque outside the door to the room commemorates this humble and beloved priest who loved without limits and gave his life to helping strangers in need and revealing Christ to them.

The life of Blessed Solanus Casey is an inspiration and example for faithful Catholics. His story is a reminder that holiness is possible for us all and that it is found in the simple and ordinary practices we embrace in our everyday lives.