Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Saint for Our Times

And even perhaps a model for the priesthood.

This comes from America magazine and written by David Nantais. Just a snippet...

"Bernard Francis Casey, known as Barney, was born in Prescott, Wis., on Nov. 25, 1870, to an Irish immigrant family. As a young man, he had a momentary experience of the brutality of the world that radically shifted his concept of life. While at work as a trolley conductor in Superior, Wis., he once saw a drunken sailor standing over a woman lying on the tracks; the sailor held a knife in his hand and yelled at the woman, threatening her life. Casey realized that this incident was not an isolated one—that the world was full of such violence. He also realized he wanted to make things better. He prayed for the sailor and his victim, and a few days later told his pastor that he wanted to become a priest.

At St. Francis De Sales diocesan seminary in Milwaukee, Casey floundered academically in courses taught in Latin and in German. After four years there he was advised to enter a religious order instead. He entered the Capuchins at St. Bonaventure’s Monastery in Detroit on Christmas Eve 1896. He received the habit and took the name Francis Solanus, by which he would be known for the rest of his life.

Solanus’s superiors believed that his struggles with academic work during formation would prove an impediment to full priestly status, so they ordained him a “simplex” priest, one who could neither preach nor hear confessions officially. He performed rudimentary duties like serving as porter at the monastery. Yet Solanus fully embraced his mission and greeted each person with such joy and respect that it evolved into a ministry of hospitality and spiritual counsel. Because of his gentle nature, which put people at ease and encouraged even the despairing to hope, Solanus earned the nickname “the holy priest.”

Father Solanus’s caring presence and reputation for listening intently to each person also drew thousands to the monastery. “Do we appreciate the little faith we have?” Solanus once asked a friend. “Do we ever beg God for more?” Solanus counseled his visitors to do both. He welcomed alcoholics and the homeless in the same way he welcomed local dignitaries like Mayor Frank Murphy. By looking beyond the superficial—a person’s drunkenness, addiction, poverty, grief or uncouth behavior—Solanus showed people their reflection as “beloved” in God’s eyes."

I compare this story to what I have heard about some clerics who seek high office in the Church. Which way will we live out our priesthood? There are so many diverse ways in which the devil can lead us astray. We are not necessarily called to be bishops and cardinals, rather most often just as parish priests, and in whatever way God asks of us, even if this means we are disregarded and left with the rudimentary tasks or the 100 person parish. This is always a tough message for me to chew on. :)


1 comment:

Robert J. Moeller said...

Hey, I randomly found your blog today and I'm glad that I did. Very interesting stuff. I'm a conservative blogger and grad student in Chicago ( Keep up the good work!