Five fun facts about — and five inspiring quotes from — Bl. Solanus Casey

Bl. Solanus Casey. Photo: Mahatma Gandhi/Creative Commons

I.  Bernard Francis (“Barney”) Casey was the sixth of 16 children. The siblings loved outdoor sports, including hunting, fishing, swimming, skiing, and skating. The 10 boys formed their own baseball team called “The Casey Nine.” Barney played catcher, usually without a mitt. The other boys liked to box but he’d have no part of it, not wanting to hurt anyone.

Blessed be God in all his designs.

— Bl. Solanus Casey

II.  After leaving the family farm, Barney Casey worked as a lumberjack, an orderly, a streetcar operator, and a prison guard at a Minnesota state prison. There he befriended prisoners Cole, Jim, and Robert Younger — members of the (Jesse) James-Younger gang. He obviously made an impression on Cole who gave him his prized possession of a wooden chest.

The idea of getting married appealed to Barney and he proposed to a young woman … whose mother then sent her off to boarding school.

We must be faithful to the present moment or we will frustrate the plan of God for our lives.

— Bl. Solanus Casey

III.  The Capuchins gave Barney the new name of Friar Francis Solanus after his patron, St. Francis Solano, who was a Franciscan priest and Spanish missionary in Peru. St. Francis Solano ministered to the poor native children there and would call them to prayer with his violin. Because another Capuchin was named Francis, Barney became known as “Solanus.”

Like his namesake, the young Solanus played the violin … but poorly. His fellow friars teased him and so with no hard feelings, Solanus would play alone in the chapel before the tabernacle.

What does it matter where we go? Wherever we go, won’t we be serving God there? And wherever we go, won’t we have Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament with us? Isn’t that enough to make us happy?

— Bl. Solanus Casey

IV.  Before entering the Capuchins, Barney had attended St. Francis High School Seminary in Milwaukee to study for the diocesan priesthood. There the classes were taught in German which made it difficult for him to follow. Seeing him struggle, his superiors advised that he wasn’t likely to succeed and suggested he consider a religious order.

But even with the Capuchins, his classwork was challenging for him. In time his superiors finally decided he would be ordained a “simplex priest,” restricted from hearing confessions or preaching doctrinal sermons.

At his first assignment after ordination, his pastor wondered how such a priest would serve the parish. He assigned him the duties of sacristan, director of the altar servers, and porter or “doorkeeper,” answering the bell at the monastery door. Though minor duties, Fr. Solanus took pride in them.

As that doorkeeper, as the first to welcome visitors, Fr. Solanus became a dearly loved and sought-after counselor. In time, people came asking for him specifically. The sick sought his blessing and cures began to take place.

Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.

— Bl. Solanus Casey

V.  Fr. Solanus died at 11 in the morning on July 31, 1957, the 53rd anniversary — to the hour and day — of his first Mass. His funeral was attended by 20,000 people.

Have faith in God, shake off excessive worry, and thank God ahead of time!

— Bl. Solanus Casey


Here’s a short video on the life of Bl. Solanus:

Timeline of Bl. Solanus Casey’s life 

Nov. 25, 1870: Born in Oak Grove, Wisconsin

Jan. 14, 1897: Entered the novitiate of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in Detroit

July 24, 1904: Ordained a priest

1904–1946: Assigned to Sacred Heart in Yonkers, New York; Our Lady of Sorrows in Manhattan, New York.; Our Lady of Angels in Harlem, New York.; St. Bonaventure’s in Detroit; and St. Michael’s in Brooklyn, New York

1946–1956: Semi-retired, assigned to St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana

1956–1957: Returned to St. Bonaventure’s for medical treatment

July 31, 1957: Died in Detroit

1976: Canonization cause initiated by the Archdiocese of Detroit

1995: Declared “venerable” by St. John Paul II

Jan. 19, 2017: Miracle needed for beatification approved

Nov. 18, 2017: Beatified in Detroit by Cardinal Angelo Amato

July 30, 2018: First celebration of the feast day of Bl. Solanus Casey

Susan Tassone will be leading a pilgrimage Nov. 2-4, 2018, to the St. Felix Catholic Center in Huntington, Indiana. For more information, contact

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