HOMILY FOR 33D SUNDA O.T. (A) GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY/BL. SOLANUS CASEY 18/19 NOV 2017
Barney Casey became one of Detroit’s best-known priests even though he was not allowed to preach formally or to hear confessions!
Barney came from a large family in Oak Grove, Wisconsin. At the age of 21, and after he had worked as a logger, a hospital orderly, a streetcar operator, and a prison guard, he entered St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee—where he found the studies difficult. He left there, and in 1896, joined the Capuchins in Detroit, taking the name Solanus. His studies for the priesthood were again arduous.
On July 24, 1904, Solanus was ordained, to what was then referred to as a “simplex priest,” but because his knowledge of theology was judged to be weak, he was not given permission to hear confessions or to preach. A Franciscan Capuchin who knew him well said this annoying restriction “brought forth in him a greatness and a holiness that might never have been realized in any other way.”
During his 14 years as porter and sacristan in Yonkers, New York, the people there recognized Solanus as a fine speaker. James Derum, his biographer writes, “For, though he was forbidden to deliver doctrinal sermons, he could give inspirational talks, or feverinos, as the Capuchins termed them.” His spiritual fire deeply impressed his listeners.
The many friends of Father Solanus helped the Capuchins begin a soup kitchen during the Depression. Capuchins are still feeding the hungry there today.
In failing health, Solanus was transferred to the Capuchin novitiate in Huntington, Indiana, in 1946, where he lived for ten years until needing to be hospitalized in Detroit. Father Solanus died on July 31, 1957. An estimated 20,000 people passed by his coffin before his burial in St. Bonaventure Church in Detroit.
At the funeral Mass, the provincial Father Gerald said: “His was a life of service and love for people like me and you. When he was not himself sick, he nevertheless suffered with and for you that were sick. When he was not physically hungry, he hungered with people like you. He had a divine love for people. He loved people for what he could do for them—and for God, through them.”
Solanus Casey was declared Venerable in 1995, and as of today, this afternoon, in Detroit, the Church has officially declared him as a Blessed. He now joins Blessed Stanley Rother, as the second native born American priest to be declared a blessed in the Church.
What can we learn from Blessed Solanus? Well, first and foremost, gracious hospitality. The key to his life was one of which was based upon his time as a porter — a door keeper. All of his ministry was being at the doors of the Franciscan monasteries, and welcoming visitors and answering their questions.
In most Catholic parishes, there is always a need for ushers, greeters, and other vital volunteers to make the visitor feel welcomed. Ours is not an exception. The more and more people who come to visit this historic old cathedral, need to be made feel welcomed. We need to expand and really form a good and wonderful hospitality ministry here. We need a good team of ushers, greeters, hospitality ministers. We need to make sure that every person who comes through our doors, we know who they are, we welcome them with open arms and help them feel like a part of the family, for indeed they are.
I am reminded of the stories from the Old and New Testaments — where God sent Angels and He, Himself, came into their midsts to see how they would be treated. From Angels visiting Sodom and Gomorrah, to the Trinity visiting Abram and Sarah in the dessert; God constantly visits us. How we treat the stranger in our midst is paramount to how we treat God in our midst.
This weekend I am announcing two new appointments to the staff of the parish, volunteers, but vitally important to the well running of the parish, to fulfill the mission of the parish. Johanna Sanchez will serve as the volunteer community director. Her job will be to help us build community events and organize parish activities better. She will work with the staff and all parish organizations to better communicate and organize us, so as to get the Mission of the Parish functioning and to build up our community and share our time together.
Adam Holcomb has been appointed as the Director of the New Evangelization. Adam will be working with the formation team to help us all be better formed as Disciples of the Lord, and to be better evangelized, and also reach out to the outside world. He will be working with the Archdiocesan staff as well, on new programs and incentives on how to bring about being properly formed into being intentional disciples of the Lord.
There are many opportunities to serve the Lord and His Church. We will need more and more people to be gracious hospitality ministers — greeters, ushers, families serving as gift bearers at Mass, having coffee and donuts after liturgies. All of these help us be parish and church together. They also help us form and welcome those around us.
As we become more and more of a community and a thriving parish, we will have more people coming our way. One of the newest ministries in the parish is our newly expanded gift shop which is now open for operations. Presently it has some limited hours, but the goal is to be open many days a week with many hours, but that takes volunteers. And it too needs to be a place of gracious hospitality. They need lots of volunteers to operate the newly renovated and expanded St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral Corner Gift Shop.
So if you could help in any of these ministries, all these opportunities to be ministers of hospitality, then please, accept this as a call from the Lord, and respond in faith. Call the office, let us know that you want to be of assistance in welcoming those whom the Lord sends in our midst.
Maybe you too, like Blessed Solanus Casey, can do remarkable ministry, be being a door keeper, by welcoming the stranger in our midst. Then the Kingdom of God will be in our midst and we will be ready for the Lord when He comes.