Blessed to Serve at the Beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey

Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest born in Wisconsin, was beatified November 18th at Ford Field in Detroit. The priest, known for his humility and gentleness, is only the second man born in the United States to be beatified. The first was Bl. Stanley Rother, a priest killed in Guatemala’s civil war, who was beatified in Oklahoma just this past September.

Lisa Cusmano, a Regnum Christi member whose family knew Bl. Solanus well, shared her family’s memories of a man who inspired simplicity and holiness in those he knew. Her grandparents were friends of the priest, and provided produce for his soup kitchen. Lisa’s family recalled Fr Solanus’ presence as “soothing, peaceful and serene. He was quiet, humble and had a presence of serenity that was nearly overwhelming.  ‘It must be like seeing the face of God,’ is what Grandma would often say.”

The beatification mass, attended by 65 000 people, was an enormous undertaking for the archdiocese. When Michigan Catholic schools were asked to volunteer, Jill Swallow, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who works at Everest Collegiate in Clarkston, was honored to have this unique opportunity to serve the Church. Jill, along with eight high school students and a teacher, joined hundreds of other volunteers in working to make the beatification a holy, joyful and well-run event.  The Everest group was stationed at Gate D where they welcomed people as they came in, and handed them a “goodie bag” of pamphlets and information about Father Solanus Casey.  For the volunteers, it was both meaningful and fun to be part of all the behind the scenes preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime event, and to see the joy and excitement on people’s faces as they entered the stadium.

Reflecting on Bl. Solanus’ example and what it means for Catholics today, Jill was inspired to remember that, “as we strive to do God’s work in the world, to be missionaries of his love and mercy, we have to remember to rely on His grace.  We are merely instruments; it is His mission, and we are privileged to be part of it.  Father Solanus was known for his power to heal, but he was completely aware of the fact that it was not his power, but God’s power working through him.  Perhaps it was his humility that enabled him to be such a fruitful instrument of grace.”

This reliance on God’s grace instead of self-sufficiency inspires Jill, who was also touched by Bl. Solanus’ advice to “thank God ahead of time” for his goodness when asking for favors.  Jill said that to her, “This reveals a deep attitude of trust and abandonment to the providence of God, an attitude very much needed for Catholic missionaries.  When things are hard and don’t seem to be going my way I can say something like this: ‘Jesus, I trust in you, and I thank you,’ ahead of time because I know you are a good God and can bring good out of any situation.”

A gifted musician with recordings of sacred music available on ITunes and CDbaby, Jill was deeply moved by the beautiful music of the Mass, and the joy of the musicians. “The choir was composed of various parish choir representatives, and it was evident that they were so happy to be there for this momentous occasion.  They smiled as they sang God’s praises, and their songs inspired fervor, emotion, and participation in the nearly 70,000 people gathered there.  The orchestra played a stunning Irish piece called Glendalough Theme by Liam Lawton, well worth a listen.  The liturgy was beautifully prepared and executed, truly honoring this great saint and giving glory to God.”

Amid the busy preparations for the Mass that was about to begin, Jill had a moment of grace when, “roughly thirty minutes before Mass started I heard beautiful music coming from the main floor of the stadium so I walked up closer to see if it was live music or a recording.  There was a lot of buzz and motion: priests getting things set up, families finding their seats, people inquiring where to go for confession, etc.  As I stood there just taking it all in, with the beautiful music of the orchestra and choir rehearsal in the background, I found myself very moved, and all I could think was, ‘I love the Church!’”






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