Just recently some of our parishioners and I went on a day pilgrimage to Father Solanus’ shrine and Ste. Anne’s parish in Detroit. They are both very special places.
Whenever I walk into Fr. Solanus’ shrine I immediately sense his holy presence. I feel peace and at the same time excitement of what God can do in just one person, dedicated to the Lord.
When we were visiting the shrine, we had the opportunity to see a film on Father’s life story. One of the things that struck me is the devotion and faith of his parents and the Catholic home they created for all their 14 children. The Second Vatican Council fathers said that the home is the “domestic church.” In other words, it is in the home where our young people are to learn love, prayer, forgiveness, virtue, etc. St. John Paul II said that if they don’t, it will be very hard, although not impossible, to learn it later. Having a good Christian home doesn’t always guarantee that our children will make good choices later, but it sure does help in ways we may never know. There is no doubt that the witness of holy parents has a profound effect on their children. Even if they walk away from the faith at some point, they often return.
Our host also shared a little about the miracle that was accepted by the Vatican as proof of his place with our Lord in heaven. A woman from another country came to pray at the shrine. She had dutifully brought many prayer requests from friends with her and after she prayed for her friends’ many requests at the tomb of Fr. Solanus, she sensed this inner voice saying: “Pray for yourself.” Now the woman had a genetic disease of the skin (interestingly Fr. Solanus died of a skin disease), and so as she prayed for healing for herself, she suddenly felt heat and cold at the same time on the area of her leg where there was a large lesion from the disease. When she returned to her hotel room she pulled back her skirt and suddenly the lesion disintegrated into powder and underneath was new, beautiful skin. When she got home she told her doctor, who said that he had no explanation, because it was impossible for this kind of healing since the disease was genetic. How amazing is the power of God through the intercession of the saints.
When the Church investigates the life of a person who has been proposed for sainthood, they are very careful about the miracles and prayers that surround them. That is because the Church is looking for a sign from heaven that this person is with our Lord. The miracle must be instantaneous, there must be no medical intervention, no other saints invoked and the healing must last. The Church is particularly concerned with these criteria since we live in a very skeptical world. When we hold up people like Blessed Fr. Solanus, we are saying that these men and women have lived lives of heroic virtue. They are witnesses of the faith. Blessed Pope Paul VI wrote in his pastoral letter on evangelization: “People listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.” The Church must teach, but most importantly the Church must give a clear witness of the truth and of God’s love and our saints are wonderful examples of this love.
Fr. Solanus’ beatification is a unique and incredible blessing for all of us in Michigan. One of Fr. Solanus’ favorite sayings was “Give thanks to God ahead of time.” In other words, have faith and trust in God’s goodness and believe that what He is doing even now in your life is preparing you for blessings and an increase in faith. The beauty of our faith is that God works incarnationally, through people, through the sacraments. Sometimes we don’t see God at work because we are distracted by things that don’t really matter in the end. We fail to see the Lord at work because we fail to love God and our neighbor. Fr. Solanus often said: “My two loves are the sick and the poor.” Fr. Solanus shows us the way; draw your attention to the needs of others, and you will then no doubt see the Lord at work.
God bless, Fr. Dennis