Masses, novenas planned for Blessed Solanus feast day — and a relic tour

A Capuchin friar prays with a woman during a blessing of the sick service at St. Bonaventure Monastery. This week, the Solanus Casey Center will host a novena of Masses celebrating the first-ever feast day of Blessed Solanus Casey, who was beatified last November. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Parishes can request first-class relic for veneration, religious education

Detroit — Nine days of prayer and special Masses will lead up to the celebration of the first-ever feast day of Blessed Solanus Casey on July 30, and a special first-class relic of “Detroit’s saint” will be available for parishes to venerate starting this summer.

Blessed Solanus, whose beatification in November 2017 was a cause of joy for the Archdiocese of Detroit and beyond, will be celebrated and invoked in a number of ways throughout southeast Michigan next week.

The epicenter of the celebrations, St. Bonaventure Monastery, will host a novena of Masses starting Sunday, July 22, and continuing until the feast day itself on July 30. Each day of the novena will focus on different parts of the blessed porter’s life — including his two great loves: the poor and the sick — as well as families, music and religious life. Each day will include Mass and a special litany for the day’s intentions.

Monday, July 23, for instance, will feature a special Mass and prayers for the poor in Detroit. Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods to donate to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and tours of the soup kitchens will follow Mass.

“Just as Blessed Solanus Casey opened the doors of the monastery to those in need, we are opening the doors of the Solanus Casey Center to welcome the community to join us in prayer and thanksgiving for the life and ministry of this future saint of the Church,” said Fr. David Preuss, OFM Cap., director of the Solanus Casey Center.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron will celebrate a 1:30 p.m. Mass on July 29 at the center — which will be livestreamed on the Capuchins’ Facebook page.

Then, on July 30, the feast day itself, the archbishop will celebrate a 7 p.m. Mass at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, where Blessed Solanus visited and prayed on many occasions.

First-class relic will tour parishes, schools

Also at the basilica Mass will be a first-class relic of Blessed Solanus that will be made available to parishes and schools for veneration on a rotating basis.

Fr. Stephen Pullis, director of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools, said the relic — a bone from Blessed Solanus’ right thumb — was a gift to the Archdiocese of Detroit from the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph.

“When the Capuchins gave it to the archbishop, they said this was his right thumb that helped open the door as a porter,” Fr. Pullis said. “That was his identity: of physically opening the door, but always being willing to accept whoever the Lord brought into his life, whether they be rich and famous or the poor and destitute.

The idea behind the “relic tour” was to allow parishes, schools, religious education classes and youth groups to get to know Blessed Solanus on a deeper level, Fr. Pullis said.

Pastors can request to “check out” the relic from the archdiocese for a period of time — for instance, over a weekend or a couple of days — along with DVDs, prayer cards and banners explaining about Blessed Solanus’ life, the significance of relics, and how to venerate and pray to saints. The banners are available in both English and Spanish, Fr. Pullis said.

“Each parish is different, and their communities are different. We wanted to set it up like a mini-pilgrimage, so they can go through and have their faith and understanding stirred up, so when they get to the relic, they come with an expectation that God wants to do something with them,” Fr. Pullis said. “It’s going to be flexible enough so each parish can make it their own.”

Though it might seem strange to some to venerate a piece of a saint’s body, Fr. Pullis said the sacredness of relics goes back to the Church’s earliest days.

“God is incarnational. Jesus came to us in the flesh,” Fr. Pullis said. “The idea is that God has worked through this person, and God continues to want to work through them. That’s what the beatification was about, that God had worked through Solanus’ body there through proximity to bestow His grace.”

Throughout the Church’s history, God has continued to work wonders both physically and spiritually through the relics of His saints, and Blessed Solanus is no different, Fr. Pullis said.

“This is the thumb that Fr. Solanus anointed the sick with, and the hand that he blessed people with,” Fr. Pullis said. “I think that makes it an even deeper and more beautiful way for us to be connected to Blessed Solanus.”