“Thank God ahead of time, right?” My friend Michael said this to me as we were entering (for the first time) a house that my husband and I were looking at to possibly purchase. ‘What an interesting expression,’ I thought to myself. I didn’t think much more about what he said because I was too busy being nervous about seeing the inside of this house. Nervous because I knew it was over a hundred years old and in need of repairs and serious cosmetic work. I also knew we were in need of finding a home to purchase and this would probably be the easiest house for us to buy. I wasn’t thrilled with the circumstances, to say the least.
As I apprehensively looked through the rooms, mentally noting all the money, work, and time this place was going to need, my friend Michael excitedly came up to me with a relic in his hand. “Look what I found, it’s a relic of Solanus Casey, he is the man who said we should thank God ahead of time.” A few months later, once we did purchase the house, I noticed that there were a few more relics of Solanus Casey in the windows throughout the house.
I definitely needed the words, “Thank God ahead of time.” when making the final decisions to purchase the house. I carried that relic in my pocket for months repeating the prayer of gratitude to God, and letting it sink into my head and heart. Everything pointed to this house being for us, Providence was at work and God’s hand was seen everywhere but I had my own ideas about how things should be and wasn’t happy that the situation and house were not ideal. Solanus Casey’s advice helped me to say, “Okay I see this is your will God even if things aren’t as I would hope, so I thank you ahead of time that everything will turn out fine.”
I’m sure my friend shared with me some details about Solanus Casey though I honestly don’t remember them. I know few details of his life but, Venerable Solanus Casey has become one of my go-to saints. Those simple words of his that my friend shared, have stayed with me and have been a great source of comfort, and reason for much reflection. The Saints are amazing like that–they are family to us. We don’t need to study them but simply talk to them and they will love and guide us.
Though I am by no means an expert on Venerable Solanus Casey I do know he was a man of great faith, humility, and gratitude. Born in 1870 on a farm along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, he was one of sixteen kids born to Irish immigrants. His family prayed together daily and Solanus continued the tradition of praying a daily rosary his entire life. He felt called to be a priest when he was a young teenager and entered seminary at twenty-one, hoping to be a diocesan priest.
Though he loved studying, he was not the best student (partly due to the lessons being given only in German and Latin) and was told he should become a religious. None of the three orders he was invited to visit seemed like an attractive way of life to him. So he asked his sister and mother to pray a novena with him for an answer on which order to join. On the last day, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Barney (as he was then known) heard Mary’s voice telling him to go to Detroit where the Capuchins were.
He became a Capuchin and eventually was ordained a priest. Because his grades in seminary were only average, he was ordained a “simplex priest” and was not allowed to hear confessions or preach doctrinal sermons. He ended up being the Porter (doorkeeper) at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit. In this simple and humble job, visitors were able to meet him and seek his help. In accepting God’s will and being obedient, Father Solanus grew in grace and became a great spiritual counselor to many and an intercessor as well.
I wonder if he ever thought, ‘This isn’t what I expected my journey to be like when I sought to do God’s will.’ It’s a thought I’ve had many times in the last few years. I don’t know what Father Solanus thought but I know he was obviously being led by God every step of His journey. Being led by God and equally important–following Him.
We’ve now been living in our home for almost two years. We moved in with plans and a budget for renovation and it all fell apart when my husband was laid off of work only months after we bought the house. So many things have gone wrong in the last couple of years and if it weren’t for having purchased this particular house we would have seriously questioned if we made a gigantic mistake moving our family from California to Wisconsin to live by a monastery.
In the past two years I have had plenty of moments of frustration. Moments of asking myself, if we have done God’s will in making this move then why has He allowed so many things to go wrong. I’ve thought and prayed about this and asked Venerable Solanus what exactly do his words about being thankful mean.
Ultimately the prayer is one of faith. However, God isn’t a genie in a bottle. We can’t just say, “Lord I am thanking you ahead of time for that million bucks you are going to give me!” and then actually expect that to work. Also, when bad things happen that doesn’t mean we don’t have enough faith; it’s not automatically our fault. The prayer of gratitude is one of faith in Providence . Faith doesn’t force God to do something but tells God we are open to His will and hoping for His blessing. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
I have learned that God’s idea of blessing can look quite different from my idea of what a blessing is. I have also learned, He does know better than I do. All the trials we have endured (and are still enduring) have been means of growth, painful growth but is there ever a time that growing pains don’t hurt? I do not know what is going to happen but I do know and am grateful that God is with us now and will be tomorrow as well. Whatever does happen I trust it is His will because I have asked for His will to be done.
Venerable Solanus Casey shared a message of faith and trust in God, and dependence on God and neighbor. He touched the lives of thousands of people. At his funeral, which was attended by over eight thousand people, the priest celebrating Mass said, “He loved people for what he could do for them – and for God, through them.”
His life is a beautiful example of someone who sought to graciously do God’s will. In the past, I have foolishly believed that if I don’t seek my own will but God’s, things will go smooth and easy. I have often found the opposite to be true. Part of God’s will is for me to stay on the path I have promised to take, to fight the battles that are inevitable, to graciously accept His plan of what my life should be; to live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow, to pray always, and to have enough faith to sincerely thank Him ahead of time for whatever He deems best to send my way. The path of salvation is not easy but it is filled with joy, gratitude is what allows us to experience that joy. I am grateful to have my beautiful family, wonderful friends, and saints to help me along the journey.
image: Nheyob / Wikimedia Commons