Masses for sick to be held at St. Felix seek Casey intercession

Rev. Solanus Casey
Photo provided.

A monthly Mass for the Sick at St. Felix Catholic Center, in Huntington, will seek comfort for the sick through the intercession of the late Rev. Solanus Casey.

At the same time, prayers will be offered that the Catholic Church will officially recognize Casey as a saint.

Casey, whose intercession is credited with many apparently miraculous cures, spent 10 years of his life at St. Felix Friary, in Huntington. The former friary is now the home of St. Felix Catholic Center.

The Masses are organized by a group of Catholic laity from Huntington and Allen counties. The group calls itself “Praying with Father Solanus.”

Masses will be held on the third Saturday of each month, with the exception of April and December, at 1 p.m. and will be preceded by recitation of the rosary at 12:30 p.m. The next Mass is this Saturday, Feb. 18, and subsequent dates are March 18, May 20, June 17, July 1, Aug. 19, Sept. 16 and Nov. 18.

Tours of St. Felix Catholic Center, including the bedroom used by Casey when he lived there from 1946 to 1956, will be available after the Masses. Assistance will be provided for those with handicaps or who use wheelchairs.

Casey, born Bernard Casey in Wisconsin in 1870, was ordained a priest in 1904 with the order of Friars Minor Capuchin in Detroit, MI, and given the name Solanus. He served in New York until transferring to St. Bonaventure Friary, in Detroit, in 1924. He ministered to the poor and the sick and, through the years, was credited with unexplainable healings.

As his own health failed, he was sent to St. Felix Friary, in Huntington, for 10 years. He returned to Detroit in 1956 and died a year later.

Casey was named “venerable” by Pope John Paul II in 1995 in recognition of his heroic virtue, the first of three steps that can eventually lead to recognition as a saint.

Rev. Ron Rieder, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Huntington, lived with Casey at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit during the last year of Casey’s life and has no doubt that Casey was a saint.

“He was just a man who was absolutely in love with God and just lived for God,” Rieder says. “He just lived for God. And God certainly lived through and in him, in his humble servant.

“God knew he could work all the great marvelous things through him, and Solanus would never, never, never, never think of taking credit for these things. It was always God working through him.”

A visit by Casey led to the apparently miraculous recovery of a paralyzed young boy in Detroit, Rieder says, relating the story told to him by the boy’s sister. Casey had been asked to come to the house and arrived while a doctor was with the boy.

“The doctor said, ‘Don’t waste your time up there. This kid is never going to walk,’” Rieder says. But Casey stayed to pray with the boy as the doctor and the family members went downstairs.

“All of a sudden Charlie comes bounding down the stairs like a perfectly normal little kid, and the doctor just about died,” Rieder says. “And those stories are told on and on and on. They never quit, one after another, no explanation.”

As the stories became more widely known, more and more people came to seek Casey’s prayers.

“Long lines of people would come to see him year after year after year after year,” Rieder says. “And great things were happening all the time. The world calls them miracles; we call them phenomena  … He would bless them very simply, touch them on their head, pray for them and great things happened.”

Casey didn’t spend great amounts of time with the people seeking his prayers, Rieder says; maybe five minutes, 10 or 20, depending on the circumstances.

“And Solanus would say, ‘Well, we’ll see if God wants you to be well. Maybe he doesn’t. Or he’ll give you the ultimate curing, which is take you to heaven,’” Rieder says.

The seekers never gave up, even during Casey’s last year in Detroit.

“Once they got word that Solanus was in town, that was it,” Rieder says. “He’d be out there until 10 o’clock at night, blessing people.

“He’d give them hope. God loves you. God is good. Trust in God,” Rieder says.

One of his often-repeated phrases, a phrase that became the title of a book written about his life, was “Thank God ahead of time.”

“That was Solanus’ way of doing it,” Rieder says. “Instead of asking God, you would thank God for things that were going to happen. He had such enormous faith in God.”

Casey suffered from an eczema-like skin disease all his life, and even thanked God for the suffering he endured.

“Suffering in Solanus’ sense had great value,” Rieder says. “It was called salvific suffering” — suffering that leads to salvation.

Casey’s body was afflicted with the sores when he died in 1957 and was buried in a cemetery at St. Bonaventure Monastery.

Rieder was present in 1987 when Casey’s body was disinterred and moved inside the monastery.

“He’d been buried in a waterproof casket,” Rieder says. “We took the casket out of the vault, and it was floating in water.

“And then he had been buried in a waterproof casket inside the waterproof vault, and the body was floating in water in the casket.

“The brown robe was completely disintegrated, but his body, which when we buried him was one massive bloody sore, when they opened it up, the body was like he was sleeping. Perfect skin, like a new baby’s skin practically, and no disintegration; maybe a little disintegration on one arm, one elbow. That was it.

“They put a new brown robe on him and reburied him, and that’s where he is today. And people come by the hundreds, thousands today to visit his gravesite.”

Before the Catholic Church confers an official designation of sainthood, it requires the confirmation of two miracles — something accomplished by God, through the intercession of the candidate for sainthood, with no natural explanation.

Once the first miracle is confirmed, Casey would be declared “blessed;” after a second miracle is confirmed, he would be declared a saint.

Rieder believes the first miracle will soon be confirmed.

“The case is coming along nicely, amen,” Rieder says.