Capuchins present new favors in Blessed Solanus’ canonization cause

Capuchins Capuchins Bro. Richard Merling, left, and Fr. Larry Webber greet Pope Francis on May 16 in St. Peter’s Square. The two vice postulators for Blessed Solanus Casey’s sainthood cause visited Rome to thank the Holy Father and the Congregation for Saints’ Causes for the November 2017 beatification of Blessed Solanus, as well as to present new evidence in the case for the Detroit friar’s sainthood. L'Osservatore Romano

In Rome to report new cases, vice postulators personally thank pope for beatification

Detroit — The sainthood cause for Blessed Solanus Casey isn’t taking a rest after a whirlwind year that culminated in the Capuchin friar’s historic beatification last November.

To move from “blessed” to “saint,” the Church requires a second miracle to be proven through the intercession of the candidate after beatification — and in May, the vice postulators for Blessed Solanus’ cause were in Rome to present what they hope will be just that.

That isn’t to say, however, that canonization is right around the corner.

“There’s some follow up after a huge celebration like the beatification, so a huge part of the reason for our trip to Rome was to both follow up on the beatification — to say thank you to our postulator and to the Congregation (for Saints’ Causes) — and we took advantage of that opportunity to present favors that have come in that appear to us to perhaps have the criteria necessary to be examined as the favor needed for the canonization,” said Fr. Larry Webber, OFM Cap., who along with Capuchin Bro. Richard Merling serves as vice postulator appointed by the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph for Blessed Solanus’ cause.

However, Fr. Webber cautioned that it’s still a “very early part of the process,” and that investigating miracle claims can take years, with many layers of scrutiny by doctors, panels and Church officials both in Detroit and Rome.

Still, to have such favors so soon after beatification “is a sign of how much God has been helping us in this cause to move it forward,” Fr. Webber said. “The cause is progressing by the grace of God.”

While details of the new cases are for now confidential, Fr. Webber said one of the alleged favors took place in June 2017, just a month after the announcement of the beatification was made.

Normally, to be considered as part of the process for canonization, a favor must take place after the beatification Mass itself, but the June case could be considered for a dispensation from that requirement because it took place after Pope Francis had signed the beatification decree, Fr. Webber said.

“We’re grateful to God that He has been giving these signs of His pleasure in Fr. Solanus, because that’s what the Church now asks for,” Fr. Webber said. “There is some favorable initial feeling toward them, however, they need some time for continued investigation by doctors and so forth, and sometimes you need years to see the results to make sure cures are permanent.”

In the meantime, the Capuchins urge people to continue to pray that God grants a favor “that is strong enough that the Church can confirm it,” Fr. Webber said.

“There are favors that have been approved after 50 years,” Fr. Webber said. “It all depends how things work out. We’re hopeful that in the case of Fr. Solanus, by God’s grace it will happen much sooner.”

A more immediate highlight of the vice postulators’ trip to Rome was the chance to personally greet Pope Francis and extend the thanks of the Capuchin and Detroit communities.

“I had met him once before and shaken his hand, with many others who were around at the time, but this was more direct — intense, you might say,” Bro. Merling said of the May 16 meeting, which took place after the pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square. “We thanked him for his advancement of the cause for Blessed Solanus, and we were very grateful for that. I also had a CD that I presented to him with a song about marriage and love that was written by my brother-in-law.”

The two Capuchins also presented the Holy Father with a handwritten letter and a check for the pope’s own outreach to the poor and refugees worldwide.

“Obviously, the beatification was huge and required tremendous cost, and people were very generous in helping us with that. It was our feeling that Fr. Solanus would not want us just to spend all this money on his beatification, but also to give some real concrete donation to the poor,” Fr. Webber said.

After the beatification, the Capuchins donated to a number of Detroit-area organizations working with the sick, poor, homeless and unemployed, and one-quarter of what was set aside was earmarked for the Holy Father’s ministry as a sign of gratitude, Fr. Webber said.

“He thanked us and was very interested,” Fr. Webber said. “He is very conscious of Solanus and his work for the poor, and the fact that the beatification happened on the eve of the World Day of the Poor, which he made mention of in the Angelus the day after the beatification. He was very grateful.”

Also included with the letter was a photograph and a prayer request for a special Detroit-area family, Fr. Webber said.

“They have a dear son who has suffered his whole life, and they have to care for him 24 hours a day. He can’t speak, and he can’t really care for himself, and we used that as an example of those who inspire us in the cause of Fr. Solanus,” Fr. Webber said. “These people might not get the miracles, but they are a miracle of the own generosity and charity. So we included a picture of that family and asked for prayers for them.”

The pope was touched by the gesture, Fr. Webber said, and asked the vice postulators in turn to pray for his ministry, which they were happy to oblige.

“It wasn’t a long conversation, but he was very gracious and kind. He asked us to pray for him, and thanked us,” Fr. Webber said. “Mostly, his interest was in that aspect of Solanus that’s something that’s dear to his own heart, having chosen St. Francis as his patron: to care for the poor and those on the margins. He saw that and recognized that and was very grateful.”