Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey-Day 9

Day 9 — Feast of Blessed Solanus — The Potter and the Clay

Throughout this Novena we have learned about the lives of the many saints whose feasts led up to this day, as well as the faith and holiness of Fr. Solanus Casey.  Today let us consider these themes together in the light of the first reading.  The themes from the past 8 days:

  • Recognizing Jesus in others;
  • The blessings of marriage and family-life;
  • Conversion of heart leading to unity, peace, and joy;
  • Suffering well with Jesus; giving our trials in every moment;
  • Living in gratitude and thanking God ahead of time;
  • Noticing little blessings that grow our lives in Christ;
  • Simple faith that encourages others;
  • Giving hospitality to others and listening to Jesus in them.

All of these themes were manifest in the life of Blessed Solanus.  He was like the potter in the first reading today, and he allowed the grace of Jesus Christ to flow through his actions and words into other people. 

“This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Rise up, be off to the potter’s house; there I will give you my message. I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel” (Jer 18:1-6).

Fr. Solanus did the work of God day-by-day, greeting people, feeding them, listening to them, and interceding for them.  Were all his prayers answered right away?  No, but God, the true Potter, continued to work the clay to form it according to His will.  This is how prayer works.  Saint Paul says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God will take every part of our lives and make it into something good. There is nothing that He cannot use for our good.

We are the clay, but we can also be the potter!  The families that we grow up in are the trinitarian image of God’s love that continually form us, pick us up when things are going badly, and start anew.  The saints we meet in our everyday lives are God’s forming hands that encourage us and pray for us.  (Blessed are we to have even one of these saints of God in our lives!).  Just as God showed Jeremiah what He can do through the example of a potter, God shows us what He can do through everyday saints like Blessed Solanus.  We are called to be imitators!

Today, on his feast day, let us ask Blessed Solanus to intercede for our Church, that we will be the image of the most loving and merciful Jesus to our families and to our world.  Let us pray that as the potter, in the image of the divine Potter, we will be patient and gentle;  and that as the clay we will receive with joy and gratitude the blessings the Potter gives.  Amen.  Alleluia!

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey-Day 8

Day 8 — Saint Martha, patroness of Christian hospitality, invites us to open the doors of our hearts to a life of warm and gracious hospitality, especially in times that can be too self-centered, exaggerating the need for privacy.

“Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.” (Lk 10:38-39).

The passage from Luke is the optional Gospel for today’s feast of Saint Martha; it is fitting for the petition for today.  The Scriptures do not say if Jesus knew Martha and Mary yet, but it was clear that He was not only welcomed by a woman, but sat at table in the home of the two sisters.  Something radical is going on: in this instance openness to Jesus requires letting go of social norms.  In fact, openness to Jesus will require letting go of something.  In return, Jesus gives Himself, life-giving water through His words.  There is a communion established when we listen to Jesus. There is a continuous giving and receiving through our listening and hearing. Martha welcomed and provided the food to eat.  Jesus spoke. Mary listened.

This form of gracious hospitality was not foreign to Blessed Solanus.  As the Porter of the Capuchin Monastery, he welcomed, fed, and listened to all who knocked on the door.  He saw Jesus in everyone and treated them as Martha and Mary treated Jesus in the Gospel.  There are two stories that illustrate his hospitality charism, as well as his extraordinary faith.  One day during the Great Depression the soup kitchen had run out of bread.  Fr. Solanus was greeting the 200 souls still in line.  He prayed an Our Father, and soon a baker’s truck pulled up to deliver bread and all were fed.  In another story, Fr. Solanus was suffering from a cold, yet he continued his ministry of listening and counseling. Fr. Solanus said (and I paraphrase), “Jesus stopped to comfort the weeping women while carrying His cross; this is the least I can do.”

Indeed, today it is difficult for us to practice this kind of radical hospitality.  Let us pray today for the grace to see Jesus in everyone we meet, to listen to His (their) stories, and to give them what they need.

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

Just for fun, listen to the Queen of Soul tell the story of Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus!

Aretha Franklin sings the story of the Rising of Lazarus (Mary, Don’t You Weep; Martha, Don’t You Moan)

Novena to Blessed Solanus Casey-Day 5

Day 7 — Blessed Maria Teresa Kowalska, Capuchin Poor Clare martyred by Nazis in Polish (see comment) a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland, 1941: we are invited to open wide the doors of our hearts to welcome in and appreciate brothers/sisters of different races, religions, cultures.

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom 8:28-30).

Is there anything that God cannot do?

Christian tradition tells us that Anne, wife of Joachim, was told by an angel after years and years of prayer that the couple would finally be blessed with a child.  Anyone who has read the story of Abraham and Sarah knows that age is not a hindrance for God’s blessing of fertility.  Scripture also tells us that the couple’s daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was told by an angel, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1:27).  Not only was Mary, a virgin, to become pregnant with the Son of God, but her elderly cousin Elizabeth was pregnant with His forerunner, John the Baptist! Indeed, the purposes of God cannot be shaken.  He works all things for the good for those who love Him, and He does it through our weakness and brokenness.  Jesus, the Son of Mary, took on our weakness in the flesh, yet without sin, so that we might be brought into the glory of His Kingdom.  He is the fulfillment of the promises of God, the kindness and the comfort of which today’s psalm speaks: “Let your kindness comfort me according to your promise to your servants” (Ps 119:76).

Fr. Solanus was no stranger to extraordinary faith and the hope in God to fulfill all of His promises.  People would come to see him by the busload to receive his counsel, encouragement, and intercession.  He witnessed to the pain and despair in the hearts of those who sought him out, and responded with one Word: Jesus.  He used the practice of gratitude to inspire confidence in God’s providence and to fight against discouragement, exhorting all with whom he prayed to “thank God ahead of time.” 

In His amazing Providence, God has worked multitudes of miracles throughout history to bring us to this point in time.  From the faith of Abraham, to the prayer of St. Anne, to the “yes” of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the death and Resurrection of Jesus, to the intercession of faithful servants like Blessed Solanus, God has been working all things for the good for those who love Him.

Today let us pray to live in gratitude, thanking God ahead of time for the great blessings that He has in store for us today and for eternity.

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Solanus Casey

O God, I adore You.  I give myself to You.

May I be the person You want me to be,

and may Your will be done in my life today.

I thank You for the gifts You gave Father Solanus.

If it is Your will, bless us with the Canonization of

Father Solanus so that others may imitate

and carry on his love for all the poor and suffering of our world.

As he joyfully accepted Your divine plans,

I ask You, according to Your will,

to hear my prayer for…(your intention)

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

“Blessed be God in all His designs.”

My Holy Week Miracle

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act (Ps 37:4). 

It was February of 2017 and I was in the midst of the most difficult spiritual and emotional trial I had ever experienced in my life. There was an event that occurred in previous months that had exacerbated the deep pain I was experiencing — something that opened the can of worms, so to speak. I was a bit uneasy in my job trying to balance home and work, and this event added to my emotional stress.  I don’t want to go into the details of these days except to give the underlying cause of it: I didn’t have a father. The above psalm verse spoke to me deep in my heart at this time, so much so that I put it on my computer desktop so that I would read it everyday.  It gave me hope that there was peace and healing at the end of this emotional pain I was experiencing.

It may seem strange to say that I didn’t have a father.  Everyone has a father, don’t they?  And indeed I do too, but there were some very difficult circumstances regarding our relationship.  To make a long story short, my father abandoned me.  I met him when I was 16.  We had 10 years of seeing each other a few times a year, and then, after I had my first child, we had a falling out and he wouldn’t talk to me anymore.  By the time I placed this psalm quote on my desktop it had been twenty years since we had spoken.  I had sent him many cards throughout the years, and even tried to speak to him on the phone one Christmas.  Nothing.  I was, however, in contact with my aunt, his only sibling.

For this next section of the story I would like to give a different quote from Sacred Scripture, because it provides the purpose of this testimony: 

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Pt 3:15).  

Fast forward to Tuesday of Holy Week of 2017.  The date was April 11.  I was up early to say my morning prayers.  Since it was Holy Week I was trying to pray the Office of Readings every morning. The Letter to the Hebrews spoke of how fathers discipline their children (cf. Heb 12:1-13).  The passage from Hebrews quotes the book of Proverbs:

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov 3:11-12). 

I was surely feeling like I was being punished or disciplined, yet I didn’t know why or by whom.

In whom he delights…” I thought.

“Show me that you delight in me, Lord!” I cried out.  This idea of “delight” was intriguing to read, because my spiritual director kept telling me this — that God delights in me — but I didn’t believe it.  (nota bene —This is an example of spiritual darkness that can happen to anyone).

My thoughts immediately went to St. Joseph.  I thought of how he must have loved Jesus so much, and how he took such good care of Him.  I looked for a picture on Google of Joseph with Jesus.  I found the one above, and put it on the background for my phone, so that every time I looked at my phone I would see an image of a father’s love for his child.  I said a little prayer to St. Joseph: “Please be with me.  Pray for me to know that God delights in me.”

I finished my morning preparation, got the kids off to school, and went to work.  I began my work day with Mass, still offering this intention and asking St. Joseph to intercede for me.  I worked at my computer that morning preparing binders for the Sacred Triduum Masses.  At 10:22 a.m., about 4 hours after I had cried out to God, I received an email from my aunt, with subject line, “Your Dad.”

The most important information in the email was, “Your dad would definitely like to speak with you.  If you could find it in your heart to call him, I know it would help him very much to hear from you.”

I was stunned.  Find it in my heart?  I looked at the picture on my phone.  “You really came through, St. Joseph!  I don’t know what exactly this means, but you really came through!”

Twenty years had passed since I last spoke to my dad, and now he wanted me to call.  Amazing… and it happened right after I had cried out to God…during Holy Week.  It was truly a miracle.

This miracle was the beginning of a lot of healing that God has done in my heart for the last three years.  I was able to see my dad again, and he was able to meet my children.  Nevertheless, he was never a father to me, nor a grandfather to my children.  But he and I are two souls to whom God wanted to bring His healing grace.  God brought my dad a necessary reconciliation towards the end of  his life, and He brought me a better and increasing knowledge of Himself as my Heavenly Father who created me, loves me, and delights in me.  

He has truly given me the desires of my heart.

My dad died September 9, 2018.  Every Holy Week from now on is not only a beautiful reminder of what God has done for all of us, but what He has done personally for me.  God is truly a Good, Good Father.