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Sunday, December 9, 2018
Second Sunday in Advent
On this Second Sunday of Advent, we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah, which John the Baptist makes his own in the Gospel: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.”
How can you and I do this during this Advent season?
This weekend we take up the annual collection for the Retirement Fund for Religious. So many elderly religious sisters, brothers and priests have had such a profound influence on us. As we assist our retired religious, we help to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths.” You may put your specially-marked envelope in the collection basket today or any Sunday in December.
In addition to the regular weekly Confession times, this weekend and next I will also make myself available after each Mass [except for the 4:00 PM Mass on Saturday] to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance. This is an excellent way to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths” as we get ready to celebrate His birth at Christmas.
Now I would like to tell you a story about someone who would eventually become a Capuchin Franciscan.
He was born Bernard Francis Casey in 1870 near Milwaukee. Everybody called him “Barney” Casey. He was one of many children. He worked as a farmhand, a lumberjack, a brick maker, a prison guard and a streetcar conductor.
On a cold, rainy afternoon, as he guided his streetcar around a curve in a rough part of town, he saw a crowd of people on the tracks. He stopped the car and saw a young, drunken sailor standing over a woman that he had assaulted and stabbed repeatedly.
Barney could not get that brutal scene out of his mind. He prayed for the woman, he prayed for the sailor and then he gradually felt that he needed to pray for the world.
Eventually he quit his job and applied to the diocesan seminary in Milwaukee. But Barney had trouble with his studies so the seminary dismissed him and suggested that he become a religious brother where the academics were not as difficult.
Barney Casey continued his search and finally joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit, Michigan and was given a new religious name: Brother Solanus Casey.
He then began seminary studies. But when it came time for his ordination to the priesthood, the seminary faculty did not recommend him because they did not think he was smart enough.
An elderly priest went to bat for him and Brother Solanus was ordained a priest in 1904 and became Father Solanus Casey, but with a restriction. He was ordained simplex, which means that he was allowed to celebrate Mass, but he was not permitted to preach or to hear confessions because his superiors did not think that he was bright enough.
So for forty-three years Father Solanus Casey was the doorkeeper at Capuchin Franciscan friaries. As a humble, obedient priest, he accepted the ministry of hospitality as his calling. And like John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, the Word of God came to him in his desert and lodged in his heart.
As time went on, visitors to the friary bypassed the other Capuchins. They wanted to see Father Solanus. Because he was attentive to God in his life, Father Solanus was a wonderful listener and was able to share some wise advice. There were miracles that were attributed to his intercession. This doorkeeper turned out to be a wonder-worker.
Father Solanus died in Detroit in 1957 at the age of 86, never having heard a confession or preached a homily. But people from all over had come to him like they came to John the Baptist in the desert, learning to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths.” Father Solanus Casey was beatified on 18 November 2017 is now on the road to canonization as a saint of the Church.
Why do I tell you this story today on this Second Sunday of Advent? For the same reason the motto of the Christophers gives us: “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
Father Solanus Casey’s priestly life did not turn out as he had first dreamed and imagined. He could have lived those forty-three years as the door keeper in the darkness of resentment and bitterness. But he chose instead to be the light of warmth and welcome to each visitor.
We live in a world that can be so dark, so cold and so violent. So let the Word of God lodge in your heart. Pray that next prayer you are inclined to pray. Do that next good deed. Put yourself in God’s hands. Have a deep sense of your calling, your vocation.
Be a candle, be a John the Baptist, be a simple doorkeeper who offers warmth and welcome to those who come. Be a voice of hope, crying out in the desert of our times: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” Let your very presence and the way you live your life announce to those around you that the Lord is near.
Blessed Solanus Casey, pray for us.