Homily during the Novena of Blessed Solanus Casey

As some of you may know
    The cause for Blessed Solanus’ canonization
    Recently signed a contract with the Eternal Word Network  
    For a half hour program on Solanus Casey.

    The program will appear on Solanus’ Birthday this November
    Which by happy coincidence is Thanksgiving
        A kind of double civic and religious whammy.
    I can hear Solanus’ Deo Gratias´ ricocheting
        Across the heavens on this one.

    The producer of this program is Michael O’Neill
    Who has created a very popular series on ETWN
        Entitled “They might be saints.”
    The segment on Solanus will include
        Various reenactments from his life
        Segments from the beatification liturgy
        And a series of interviews,
        Including one from Detroit’s own Archbishop Vigneron.

Michael, the producer, has a great reverence for Solanus
and confided in me that an episode on Solanus
was one of his highest priorities.
    Michael’s digital handle and the name of his radio show
Interestingly enough is
the “miracle hunter.”

There is little doubt that multitudes of people around the world
    Are on the hunt for a miracle.
    Some of them are seeking the miraculous in the marketplace
    Hoping to invest early in a company
    That will be the new Amazon and rocket them into richness.

    Others are seeking the miraculous in the public eye
    Hoping to be the new star, the new influencer, the new guru
    Whose break-through appearance on dancing with the stars
        Or the Olympic games
    Will catapult them from obscurity into Kardashian heaven.

But then there are the folk who come here
    To this place
    And flood the tomb area with intercessions large and small
        For reconciliation within families
        for helping in finding a job
        for consolation amidst some trauma or loss,
    but also, maybe even most frequently
        for healing of body, and mind and heart.

    Over the many years of his ministry
        Solanus received thousands of similar requests.
        But not only were there requests,
        There were innumerable reports of favors
        So many, as you know, that in 1923 his provincial
            Asked him to begin keeping track of them.
    
That reporting, recorded in 7 notebooks by the time of his death
    Includes over 6,000 favor reports.
    At no time, however, does Solanus attribute any favor
        Any healing to his prayerful intervention

    Rather, he believed people received favors
        Because God had heard their prayer
        And they witnessed to their faith and confidence in God
        By some good deed such as supporting the missions
        going to confession or helping the poor.
        
As many of you know, however,
    Solanus did not believe that every request for favors
        That every request for healing would be answered
        The way the supplicant might hope.
    Rather he believed that all suffering had the potential
        To be redemptive – to draw us closer to Christ.

These days I am working through all of Solanus’ writings
    In the hopes of creating a comprehensive index
        To his ideas and language and experiences
    I recently ran across a letter he wrote in 1946
        That summarizes his unwavering faith
        When it comes to suffering.

    Corresponding with a certain Mildred,
In the midst of her deep suffering and sadness,
    Solanus writes: “Dear Sister,
        You ought to … thank God for having given you
        Such an opportunity to humble yourself
        And such a wonderful chance to foster humility
        
(and then of course that classic Solanus phrase)

        By thanking God ahead of time for whatever crosses
        He may deign to caress you with (II:162).”
The caress of the cross
    As only Solanus could phrase it
    Finds deep resonance in today’s Gospel
    In which Jesus teaches us that central to being united with him
        Is the willingness to be pruned
        For our sake and that of others.  
        Just as he was climactically pruned on Golgatha
        For the salvation of the world.

    Part of the hidden spirituality of today’s gospel
    Touches not only those of us suffering
from obvious illness or medical challenges
But the fact that self-diminishment is in all of our futures.
    All of us are growing older
        And unless you are an elite athlete like todays Olympians
        Our natural decline usually begins at the ripe old age of 27.
        Some of us are becoming sicker
        Some of us are moving past our intellectual
            Or physical prime
        As our employability abates
        Our abilities to play the game with the same vigor recedes
        And our leadership skills start to atrophy    .    
We become aware that nature itself is pruning us
And we have little apparent control over such declines.

    On the other hand, we do have control
        Over how we respond to this natural
And sometimes unfortunate ebbing of mind & body
        Over whether or not we allow ourselves to be pared back
        In a spirit of generosity, so that our families
            Our friends, our community can bear new fruit,
        Or whether we hold on tightly
            Forcing others to compete for the energy
            The light
            The love we crave to absorb.

Today as we witness to the deep faith
    Of the multitudes who seek healing through the intercession
        of the sainted door opener we know as Solanus Casey
    We also recognize that every healing, no matter how miraculous
        Is ultimately temporary, like life itself,
        As we all journey towards eternal life.

    The only healing that is eternal
        Is that of our hearts and souls
        Our spirits eternally healed through the caress of the cross.

    Thus with the courage that Solanus often summoned
        In so many
    And with the spirit of gratitude that he so richly embodied
        With the poet we pray:

We ask God for health that we might achieve
    God makes us weak that we might obey
We ask for riches that we might be happy
    God gives us poverty that we might be wise
We ask for strength that we might do great things
    God gives us infirmity that we might do better things
We ask for calm, that we might contemplate the holy
    God gives us storms, that we ourselves might become holy
We ask for all things that we might enjoy life
    God gives us life eternal that we might enjoy all things
We receive nothing that we ask for
    yet much more than we ever hoped for
our prayers are answered
    we are most blessed –
    and thus we can truly proclaim Deo Gratias
    through Christ our Lord.