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 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.