Simply Holy: Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap.

Although I no longer write about chronicles of various misadventures as I once did, those misadventures still occur now and again. A recent event, caused solely by mid-sixties forgetfulness, resulted in a promise that I made to Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., to write a brief reflection about him and his simply holy manner that drew so many scores of thousands of people to seek him about for spiritual advice even though he was a simplex priest who was unable to preach or to hear confessions.

Locked Out

The misadventure that prompted this reflection occurred when I was out running errands forty miles from where we live as I stopped a convenience store/gasoline station to purchase some water and a soft pretzel, which wound up being my dinner. Upon putting the car in park, though, I discovered that I did not have the key to open the door of the car on my person in any of the pockets of my clothing. That was a problem.

Why was that a problem?

All right. Be patient.

Well, you see, there was a four-legged friend with me in the car.

Yes, Chase, our eight year-old beagle, was along with me for the ride as he got acclimated to traveling when we lived in our motor home and does not like staying home, although there are times when he does, much to his canine chagrin and grief.

The fact that I could not lock the car with the engine running to keep the car cool inside required me to be a little inventive. As I had no boxes near the doors to prevent Chase from pressing down on the button that controls the door locks, I kept the side door unlocked so that I could gain entry back into the car while inside of the store. Instead of using my supposedly fool-proof set of boxes to keep the dog from locking me out, I resorted to a set of pillows, which was not exactly the brightest idea that I have ever had (and I have had a lot of that were not so bright).  There is a moral to this story: leave the dog at home! I know that, but have you ever seen a beagle’s face?

It was upon my return to the car that I discovered that the jury rigged system of preventing Chase from locking me out was not so dog-proof. Chase evidently had stepped on the pillow and locked the side door that I had kept unlocked. “Well,” I said to myself, “here’s another fine mess that I’ve gotten myself into.”

Although I tried to coax Chase into stepping on the pillows again, he would have none of it. I even tried to wave the soft pretzel so that he would move in the direction of the lock/unlock button. Instead, though, he just scratched at the window. He was hungry as it was way past his dinner time. It should be noted, however, that there is rarely a time when he is not hungry. He is a beagle, and beagles love to beg.

I then called Sharon to have her rescue me by bringing the door key to our minivan, which I thought at the time had been left in another sports jacket or my Columbo-type trench coat, which is fifteen years old and quite tattered (a replacement would cost around $400 for something that used to cost around $150).

Alas, Sharon could not find the door key anywhere. As it turned out later, it wouldn’t have mattered. I had the key to our second car, a used 2010 Honda Civic that might be comfortable for someone who stands no more than five feet tall. The car is always useful if one wants a good head bonking several times during the course of a drive, but it is a reliable second vehicle no matter the penance involved with entering it, driving it and exiting it. Penance is good. We are Catholics. I need to do penance more than most. Deo gratias.

Well, it was then time to call the American Automobile Association for a lockout service call from a towing company to get me back into the car. All I had to do was to wait for forty-five minutes for the driver to arrive.

Sharon called me back shortly thereafter and to relate the following story involving the holy Capuchin friar, Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., at whose vault within Saint Bonaventure Church in Detroit, Michigan, I prayed on a Sunday in April of 1997: 

All his actions, even when he predicted tragedy, were motivated by thoughtfulness of others. His compassion might be expressed by as ordinary a courtesy as bringing a sorrowing visitor a cup of coffee and a cupcake, or something as startling as the blessing of a small boy – whose toothache immediately stopped.

At times it might be nothing more than a nonchalant response to an embarrassing situation – such as a woman locking herself out of her car. Mrs. Thomas V. Egan of Greydale Avenue, Detroit, relates the following. Driving with her sister, Mrs. Vincent Kelly of Toronto, about Detroit on a sunny summer afternoon in the early 1940's, Mrs Egan parked her car before the Monastery, and with her sister visited the public chapel. When they came out, Father Solanus was walking up and down in from of the monastery, enjoying the sunny summer afternoon. After greeting him, Mrs. Egan moved to her car. The door handle wouldn't turn – and a glance revealed the worst. Her car keys were in the ignition switch; she had locked herself out. Both sisters in turn tried the car's two doors, then miserably conceded they would have to call a locksmith.

As they discussed their plight Father Solanus, having turned at the far end of his promenade, approached. Noting their perplexity, he questioned them and was told they had locked their car keys inside the Buick.

“There's no problem,” he said.

He grasped the door handle, turned it.

Mystified and dumbfounded, Mrs. Egan and her sister thanked him and drove off. (James Patrick Derum, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin, The Fidelity Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968, pp. 220-221.)

“Pray to Father Solanus Casey,” Sharon pleaded with me, and so I did. I prayed an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be.

It was immediately after I had finished the prayer that I looked with astonishment at the side door’s windows, which had been opened. Father Casey got Chase to stand on the button to lower the window. Although it took me a few moments to close my mouth, which was agape with absolute wonder, I said, “I can get in!” (Yeah, I’m a smart one, aren’t I?) I reached in, unlocked the side door to slide it open and then reached over to unlock all the doors. Chase cared about none of this as he just wanted to go for a walk and to attempt to get the pretzel.

I called Sharon back to tell her that Father Casey had answered my prayer.

“You owe him an article,” she told me.

Well, although it has taken me a few weeks to pay back Father Solanus for his intervention in my behalf, this is but a small effort to pay tribute a holy man whose humility and meekness performed many miracles in his own lifetime and won him the affection of thousands upon thousands of people in New York, Indiana, and Michigan, and about whom I had first heard in the early-1980s when attending what I thought was Holy Mass at Saint John the Baptist Church on East 30th Street in the Borough of Manhattan, City of New York, New York (and about whom I heard stories told by one who had lived with him at Saint Bonaventure, the late Father Benedict Groeschel, who was ordained as a Capuchin Franciscan in 1958). 

Revealing Truths to the Little Ones

Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. [24] But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. [25] At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.

[26] Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. [27] All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him. [28] Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. [29] Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Matthew 11: 21-30.)

At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? [2] And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them,[3] And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. [5] And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. (Matthew 18: 1-5.)

Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., was one of God’s little ones. He accepted being ordained as a simplex priest who was able to offer Holy Mass privately but could neither preach nor hear Confessions. It was this humility and serene acceptance of the will of God that caused him to draw thousands upon thousands of souls to seek him out for spiritual advice and counsel. Father Casey’s holy simplicity was such that he was able to give sound advice on practical matters of life as, being conformed to the Priesthood and Victimhood of the Chief Priest and Victim of every true offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, he sought to see Our Lord in all those he met and to be Our Lord for them.

James Patrick Durham explained why thousands mourned Father Casey upon his death on July 31, 1957:

It was on a blizzardly Christmas Eve in 1896 that the future Father Solanus rang the doorbell of St. Bonaventure's Capuchin Monastery in Detroit.

He came there as Barney Casey of Superior, Wisconsin. In his twenty-six years he had been a farm hand, a lumber jack, a brick maker, a prison guard, a motorman and a street car conductor. He was also a former seminarian.

He had come to the monastery door reluctantly, with dark doubts and forebodings of failure, because he felt himself required to obey what seemed to him a clear and unmistakable answer to prayer. Seventeen days before, while praying in his parish church to know God's will as to his calling in life, he had suddenly received a command – of this he never had the slightest doubt – from a supernatural source. It was a definite, three word message, directing him to join the Capuchin Order.

He acted at once, though necessary preliminaries delayed his departure until three days before Christmas. Then, as a great blizzard struck the middle west, he left father and mother, and nine brothers and four sisters, and entrained for Detroit and the Capuchin novitiate.

His coming to the Capuchins had been an act of faith requiring heroic humility. True, he was obeying what he believed to be a divine imperative. Nevertheless, his obedience must have been in painfully sharp conflict with his human judgment – judgment based on his previous seminary experience. In a human and formal sense, his future was to justify his presentiments. For more than sixty years in the Capuchin Order he would perform menial duties ordinarily considered below the dignity and office of a priest. Yet in his lowly position he would bring Christ's love and compassion to scores of thousands of the afflicted, of every faith and station – and these would never forget him. Though his last days were spent in Detroit, he had been absent from that city many years before his death. Yet the moment the news was broadcast, telephone calls began flooding into the monastery office. To the Capuchin superiors it quickly became evident that thousands remembered their dead brother, and would be deeply disappointed were they deprived of an opportunity to bid him a final farewell. Normal consideration for these old friends of the porter of St. Bonaventure's dictated that the body should lie in state until the funeral on Saturday. The monastery itself could provide no rooms sufficiently large, and the public chapel must be kept free for masses and devotions. It was, therefore, decided that on Thursday and part of Friday, the body should lie in state in a commodious funeral home, and should be transferred to the chapel of Friday afternoon, where it would lie until the funeral services on Saturday morning.

Wednesday evening, newscasters announced that the funeral home – on Detroit's far east side – would be open to the public at 10 o'clock Thursday morning. As early as 6:30 people began gathering on the sidewalk in front of the imposing building. The crowd continued to swell. To observers it seemed that every religion, occupation, and age was represented – priests, ministers, nuns, laborers, businessmen, politicians, judges, doctors, lawyers, housewives, factory workers, adults, teenagers, children.

Even after many had been standing for two or three hours in the August day's increasing heat, the throng remained orderly, quietly waiting. When at 10 o'clock the funeral director and his assistant came out and asked the people to form into two lines, they did so with every consideration for one another. Then they moved forward at a deliberate pace towards the funeral home's opened door.

Hour after hour, all through the day and up to 10:30 that evening, the long double queue continued to shuffle forward in perfect order. By the closing hour, more than five thousand had passed before the brown-robed body lying within the rather incongruous tufted silk interior of the sleek steel casket.

The long double line of viewers was endless; newcomers joined in continuously through the day and evening. On the street and in the funeral home the atmosphere was one of awe and sorrow. All, including the many teenagers, approached the coffin in deepest reverence. Many adults carried infants.

Some of the mourners, after kneeling a moment at the coffin, would introduce themselves to the Capuchin Fathers standing in the background. A man presented his son, saying “Fifteen years ago, Father, my son was dying of polio. Father Solanus blessed him, and today he is in the best of health.” A woman introduced an elderly lady. “Father,” she said, “this is my mother. She was dying of cancer, and Father Solanus blessed her and prayed for her, and here she is tonight.” Other were there, they said, in gratitude to the friar who “had cured them” of some serious illness or other. One woman began to cry. Pointing toward the coffin, she said: “He was the best friend I had in the world. Some years ago I was in utter despair, and wanted only to die. He talked to me, and I began to live again.”

This went on all day and evening.

At 10:30 the funeral home doors were closed. Shortly thereafter, a couple rang and begged admittance; they had come a long distance. When the husband and wife were admitted, the woman explained that they owed their marriage to Father Solanus. She and her sister, as youngsters, had resolved to become nuns. When eighteen years old, she had sought Father Solanus' counsel in the selection of a religious order. To her surprise, he told her she was not destined for a life in religion. This prediction shocked her, and he attempted to overcome her arguments by becoming specific.

You will,” he told her, “marry a man now in military service. And you will have as many children as you can count on one hand, plus almost as many as you have fingers on the other.”

She left his presence disappointed, chagrined, almost angered. For sometime thereafter she stove to realize a religious life. Time, however, saw Father Solanus' prediction fulfilled. She eventually married a young man who had been in military service. There were now expecting their seventh child.

The funeral home doors were to remain closed to the public Friday morning, for at 10 o'clock the body was to be transferred to St. Bonaventure's chapel. But as early as 6:30 people began pressing the doorbell, and Arthur Van Lerberghe, the funeral director, ordered the doors opened. At 10 o'clock the doors were again closed and the body was transported to the Capuchin chapel on Mt. Elliott Avenue. “By 3 p.m.,” Mr. Van Lerberghe said, “six thousand persons had come through the chapel. That night, the flow of humanity never stopped until the chapel was closed.”

Shortly before 10 o'clock Saturday morning, the chapel was cleared in preparation for the Requiem Mass. From Thursday morning until that time, upwards of twenty thousand people had looked upon the ascetic face of the humble friar. Throughout the United States and Canada, two hundred thousand or more were said to have mourned his passing.

They thought of him as the holiest of priests, and few knew that his priestly powers had been crippled from the start. His Capuchin superiors had admitted him to the priesthood despite much doubt and after considerable debate, since he had been unable to meet the scholastic minimum normally required. They had permitted him to continue his seminary studies only after the seminary head, the Order's most learned member, had raised his powerful voice in his behalf.

He was ordained, but without the faculties for administering the Sacrament of Penance, or for the formal preaching. In all, his fifty-three years as a priest he never heard a confession, preached a mission, or conducted a retreat. Shortly after his ordination, more rigid requirements for ordination were established; the faculty-deprived priest became a survival from the past. Had these regulations been in effect during his clericate, they would have automatically excluded Father Solanus from the priesthood.

A simplex priest's field of usefulness was radically restricted. So for two years he served as a sacristan, then for forty years as a porter.

As a porter he became in the eyes of the multitude – and of many other priests and religious – a saint. (James Patrick Derum, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin, The Fidelity Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968, pp. 18-22.)

Father Solanus Casey had such abiding humility that he always attributed whatever miracles he performed during his lifetime to the fruits of the Holy Mass and to the prayers and maternal intercession of Our Lady. Father Solanus was faithful in his offering of Holy Mass every day, knowing that every true offering of Holy Mass adds glory to God and grace to the world. He could not preach or hear confessions, but he had the inestimable privilege of bringing Our Lord Himself down on an altar of sacrifice. His love of Holy Mass led him to enroll those who visited him and their needs in the Seraphic Mass Association:

By 1928 pressure on the Monastery office and on Father Solanus had become constant and at times overtaxing. Brother Francis' ability to keep the office running smoothly was regarded as essential. Therefore, when it was decided that year to move the tailoring shop to the new St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Indiana, the Brother – excellent tailor though he was – remained at St. Bonaventure's. He sat at the rear of the room, at a desk, and when not busy with his own work was forever doing something to help out Father Solanus or his visitors. Both of their jobs were now made easier, also, by a little sign above the doorbell which read, Walk In.

Walk in they did, endlessly; mornings, afternoons, evenings; day after day, seven days a week. Some wanted to talk with Brother Francis, or with one of the other Brothers, or Fathers, but most by far came to see, to talk with, to listen to Father Solanus. Seated at his desk they would pour out their griefs, sufferings, longings, blasted hopes. Listening to the pitiable or urgent, Father Solanus would take a pocket sized notebook out of the center drawer of his desk, and jot down a note. At the Wednesday services for the sick, he would take the little book from a pocket of his brown habit, and referring to the note and others he had made during the previous week, ask special prayers for these unfortunates.

In this way, Father Solanus during his twenty-one years at St. Bonaventure's filled seven notebooks with more than six thousand notes. To between six and seven hundred of these notes he has added a sentence or two to state the person mentioned had reported being cured of cancer, or leukemia, or tuberculosis, or diphtheria, or arthritis, or blindness, or other malady; or had been converted, or had received a favorable answer to some domestic or business problem. Perhaps many, like “the other nine” in the Gospel, did not return to report favors received. Or perhaps they did, and Father Solanus – who was not keeping a record for posterity – just didn't write notes on their reports.

When scores of people were interviewed after Father Solanus' death regarding special favors, they said they had been granted after he had enrolled them in the Seraphic Mass Association, yet it was found that the names of only two or three of them were mentioned in the notes.

The notebooks do, however, suggest concretely the variety of human needs, misfortunes and physical affliction which brought people to him in such numbers seven days a week for more than two decades. (James Patrick Derum, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin, The Fidelity Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968, pp. 140-141.)

The Mass was first and foremost in the life of the simply holy simplex priest, Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., whose abiding humility served him in his interior life as he relied upon Our Lady like a little child, spending rapturous hours in prayer to the Blessed Mother, especially by praying her Most Holy Rosary daily and by praying, yes, praying, The Mystical City of God on his knees. He read each of the four volumes that followed Our Lady’s instructions to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, something that was mentioned by James Patrick Derum, although he, a skeptic about The Mystical City of God, found Father Solanus Casey’s practice of praying about a book while on his knees before the Most Blessed Sacrament mystifying.

It was during his last agonies that Father Solanus Casey told one of those attending to him about how he read The Mystical City of God:

EVEN IN HIS SUFFERING, said Sister M. Margaretta, who with Sister Arthur Ann was assigned to nurse him, he showed a keen sense of humor, and interior joy. Frequently we would hear him humming a tune of some hymn to the Blessed Virgin.

He radiated Christ-like holiness.

A sister companion and I often read to him – always from The Mystical City of God. Always, too, he would precede the reading by asking us to recite with him a prayer to the Holy Spirit. As we read, he would close his eyes, and seem to doze. But let a word be misread, and he would open his eyes, and we'd note a twinkle in them as he corrected us. Or some passage would strike him, and he would exclaim “Glory to God.”

He told us he had “prayed” the four volumes of The Mystical City through three times kneeling. (James Patrick Derum, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin, The Fidelity Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968, p. 64.)

Yes, holy simplicity. How far most of us are from such a spirit of holy simplicity and guileless spirit as possessed and exhibited by Father Solanus Casey.

Father Solanus Casey and The Mystical City of God

An article written by Father Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M., Cap., that appeared in the January-February 1958 edition of Age of Mary, an “exclusively Marian” journal that was published by the Servants of Mary (Servite Fathers) in Chicago, Illinois, gave a complete and very favorable summary of Father Solanus Casey’s devotion and reliance upon the Venerable Mary of Agreda’s The Mystical City of God:

Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap, who died in Detroit on July 31, 1957, was one of the greatest and most ardent devotees of Mother Mary of Agreda in modern times. Born in 1870, ordained in 1904, and a Capuchin for over sixty years, Father Solanus was known far and wide to many thousands of persons and loved by them for his simplicity, his kindness and holiness of life. For some twenty years after Ordination he was in Yonkers, N.Y., and in New York City; for another twenty years he was in Detroit, and for eleven years in Huntington, Indiana. For the past year and a half Fr. Solanus was in retirement in Detroit. In his last weeks he suffered a good deal but edified all. As death approached he raised himself in bed and said: “I give my soul to Jesus” and fell back dead. At least 15,000 people flocked to pray at his body as it lay in state, and the immense funeral on August 3 loudly attested the high veneration in which people of Detroit held him.

Called by Our Lady

It was Fr. Solanus himself who told the writer that Mary appeared to him on the day of his First Holy Communion up in Wisconsin. After he left school he worked as a brick-layer, and motorman on a street car, and did various other jobs in different cities of Wisconsin. Finally, he felt called to the Holy Priesthood and studied for some years at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee. He suffered from throat trouble in his last year and stayed home that Fall instead of returning to the seminary. He and his mother and one of his sisters (there were sixteen children in the family, three of whom became priests) made a novena to Our Blessed Lady to help Bernard (his baptismal name) find his true calling. He thought of religious life and had spoken to various priests of religious orders but was undecided which one to choose. He knew of the Capuchins in Milwaukee, and had written to their Fr. Provincial, who said he would accept him as a candidate. Thus Bernard continued to pray to Our Blessed Mother for the whole time of the novena before the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1896. On the feast itself, as he related to the writer, he went to Mass and Holy Communion and felt very happy and at peace. As he knelt in prayer after Holy Communion Our Blessed Mother appeared to him in a clear, external vision and told him simply: “Go to Detroit.” Our Lady did not hold the Divine Child but seemed rather like our pictures of her as the Immaculate Conception. For Bernard it was a never-forgotten day and the experience gave him a wonderfully beautiful and tender love, devotion and confidence in the All-Holy and All-Powerful Mother of God. Bernard had no more doubts about his Capuchin vocation. His family rejoiced with him. He left for Detroit at Christmas time, was invested as a novice and given the name of the great Franciscan Apostle of South America, St. Francis Solanus, on January 14, 1897.

The Life of the Mother of God

Fr. Solanus was never a great scholar, but he read a good deal, and he had great faith, hope and charity, which are of such tremendous importance in our spiritual life. Most of his priestly ministry was spent at the friary office, patiently listening to people’s trials and troubles, and giving them hope and consolation that was true milk and honey for them. In Yonkers, N.Y., the people soon esteemed him, who listened so kindly to them at the Friary of the Sacred Heart, and who ever so gently lead them closer to the Sacred Heart and His Blessed Mother. Fr. Solanus urged people to go to confession and Holy Communion more frequently and to amend their lives, – thus, he said, God would have greater mercy on them and deliver them from their afflictions or at least give them greater light to appreciate their trial, and more powerful graces to bear them for the good of their own souls. It was a simple, homely philosophy, but it was true Catholic faith applied to suffering souls. Unruffled by many callers at the office door, Fr. Solanus kept up his work from early morning until late at night.

One day in Yonkers, about fifty years ago, Fr. Solanus was wondering why he had not seen a full life of the Mother of God. He said that all he had read up till them were short books, or books with many pictures and not much text. He mentioned that to a woman and she told him about the Life of Our Blessed Lady, The Mystical City of God, by Ven. Mother Mary of Agreda. Fr. Solanus was amazed that he had never heard of this before and he procured a copy. So far as the writer recalls, this copy was not complete in English form but it served the purpose of converting Fr. Solanus entirely to this truly wonderful work. He read it, reread it and told others about it. There, he found was so many others have found for three centuries, a work that leads the reader with devotion and unction to a deeper appreciation and love of Mary and all the mysteries of our Redemption. Some years later a full English edition appeared in four volumes by Fiscar Marison (Fr. Blaetter). This pleased Fr. Solanus and from then on he read each volume with great fervor.

An Apostle of Mary

The very fact that this work by the saintly Franciscan nun, Mary of Agreda, had sustained so much opposition over the centuries, and that King and Popes, Universities, and theologians had fought about it pro and con did not disturb Fr. Solanus. He was satisfied to know that the Spanish Inquisition had approved it after studying it thoroughly for fourteen years. No work, except the Bible itself, has had so many approvals of bishops, theologians and Superiors of religious orders as this work by Mary of Agreda. Fr. Solanus used to say one needs faith and devotion to the Mother of God to appreciate the sublime value of this truly magnificent work. (Father Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M., Cap., “Father Solanus Casey: Capuchin Agreda Devotee,” The Age of Mary: An Exclusively Marian Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, January-February 1958, pp.  108-110.)

Yes, one needs faith and devotion to the Mother of God to appreciate the “sublime value” of The Mystical City of God. One needs Father Solanus Casey’s holy simplicity and total child-like trust in Our Lord and Our Lady, and his fellow Capuchin Franciscan, Father Gumbinger, believed that he, Father Solanus, reached the heights of mystical contemplation:

The writer has little doubt that the constant meditation of this Life of Mary brought Fr. Solanus to the realms of the mystics in his contemplation. A volume of this work, and the rosary were ever close at hand for Fr. Solanus. It was the consideration of the glories of Mary and her intimate part in our Redemption that gave him not only an ever more tender love for Christ and His Immaculate Virgin Mother, but it also gave him that wide view of life and the world, that deep appreciation of faith and the Catholic Church, which gives mystics their great sense of true values, and thereby they help to keep the world in balance and sanity. No matter how terrible the things Fr. Solanus would hear were going on in the world, or with individuals he could always smile and place his hope in the all-Powerful Mother of God, and he inspired a similar hope and confidence in others.  (Father Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M., Cap., “Father Solanus Casey: Capuchin Agreda Devotee,” The Age of Mary: An Exclusively Marian Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, January-February 1958, p. 110.)

Why, if I can interject at this point, do we get all wound up and agitated about elections and the events of the world?

Are we not Catholics?

Do we need have trust in the power of the Mass and the assistance given us by Our Lady?

Why all the needless agitation and conflict?

What good end does such conflict and agitation serve?

We must have same confidence in Our Lady as Father Solanus had as he gave time-tested Catholic advice to those who sought him out for counsel:

Propagandist of the Mystical City of God

When people came to Fr, Solanus with their trials he would see that they went to Holy Communion frequently and that they would keep up this practice. Soon he would tell them to enroll in the Seraphic Mass Association for the benefit of Capuchin Foreign Missions. For a small alms such benefactors share in some 5,000 Masses that are offered annually by the Capuchin Fathers. The money goes to their Foreign Missions. Thus over a long period of years Fr. Solanus obtained many thousands of dollars for those missions. Many claimed they were converted or healed after having Fr, Solanus enroll them in this association. They would then become regular benefactors of the Capuchin Missions. In many cases Fr. Solanus would tell people to obtain a set of the volumes of Mother Mary's work on Our Blessed Mother. The people were told to read there at times and to go to Holy Communion often. Many are the cures of soul and body that people claim were worked in that way.

The Detroit Apostolate

From July 1924 until 1944 Fr. Solanus was at the Detroit Friary of St. Bonaventure. There at the office he became known to countless thousands of persons especially during the great depression. He was instrumental in founding the Capuchin Charity Guild which operates the well-known “Soup Kitchen” where hundreds are fed daily for over five years. The stream of unemployed, the poor, the sick, the sinners, the oppressed in body and soul sooner or later found their way to Fr. Solanus. All were enrolled in the Seraphic Mass Association – some of them many times over – and a goodly number were directed to Mother Mary's wonderful opus. If people claimed that he cured them, Fr. Solanus said it was not he but the power of the Mass, because, as benefactors of the Capuchin Missions such persons who were enrolled shared in those 5,000 Masses offered every year for their intentions.

Prayer and Penance

To that we must add the prayers and penances of Fr. Solanus himself. Frugal in food, drink and clothes, a true lover of holy poverty, self-denial, and honest physical penance and suffering, he took out on his own flesh the debt others owed God so that they could be cured in soul and body. For long years he suffered skin rashes, open legs, and sores of various kinds on his body. Often Superiors knew nothing of this. Fr. Solanus suffered in silence for the good of the poor suffering people who came to him. To all this he added positive penances that afflicted his body in a manner that would make a strong man shudder. He said Our Blessed Lord had suffered so much for us and we should assist Him by suffering also in our bodies for our own sins and those of others.  (Father Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M., Cap., “Father Solanus Casey: Capuchin Agreda Devotee,” The Age of Mary: An Exclusively Marian Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, January-February 1958, pp. 110-111.)

The sort of penances embraced by Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., have been rejected by the whole worldly ethos of the counterfeit church of conciliarism, which has reduced Lenten penances to an obligatory fasting only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and has made Ember Days a thing of the past. Father Solanus took seriously these words of the Divine Saviour Himself:


Then Jesus answered and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. [17] And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. [18] Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? [19] Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. [20] But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting. (Matthew 17: 16-20)

Penance and fasting are not to be observed only when mandated by the law of Holy Mother Church. It is to be part of a Christian's spiritual life, which is why Father Solanus able was to help as many souls during his life here on earth and why he has been able to do so after his death:

Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap, was as much as in demand for spiritual advice outside of the Sacred Tribunal of Penance, which he could not administer, as was Saint John Mary Vianney inside of the confessional. If he had “free time,” though, this penitential simplex priest of holy simplicity would use most of it to pray Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary and to read The Mystical City of God:

Whatever time Fr. Solanus had free he would generally use it to say the rosary and to read The Mystical City of God. How he edified his Brethren when in his simplicity and devotion, he would kneel in his room or in the chapel of the community, and read that grand book. As he grew older, and especially in Huntington and his last years in Detroit when his duties were lesser or none at all, Fr. Solanus would spend hours at a time in chapel reading and meditating on Mother Agreda's work – and always on his knees! In that way he converted sinners, cured the sick, comforted the afflicted, saved the dying and helped to free the Holy souls in Purgatory. The writer has often watched him on such occasions. At times Fr. Solanus seemed entirely lost to the world. Gazing at the Tabernacle, with tears in his eyes, he would kneel motionless for long stretches of time, his mouth partly open, and the book on his bench before him – lost in God and Mary!

Many a time we spoke of Mary of Agreda, her life and work. Fr. Solanus encouraged the present writer to diffuse the knowledge of this great woman and her famous work. Truly wonderful are the instances he gave of people who were converted or cured, or both by reading this book. He gave a striking case of a certain religious house, where the Superior had forbidden the religious to propagate this work. Within one week the candidates and novices of that house left the Congregation! Fr. Solanus did not hesitate to see in this the hand of God who thus punished the entire community in a visible manner for opposing this work. (Father Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M., Cap., “Father Solanus Casey: Capuchin Agreda Devotee,” The Age of Mary: An Exclusively Marian Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, January-February 1958, pp. 111-112.)

The holy simplicity of Father Solanus Casey led him to see the hand of God in the punishment of those who dared to consider The Mystical City of God harmful for souls, including, sadly, the souls of candidates for the religious life and the holy priesthood as they are called to foster a particular intimacy with Our Lord in His Real Presence and with the Mother of God herself. This example should serve as a salutary lesson for anyone who might think that he has a duty to oppose The Mystical City of God and to claim that it is “no good” despite the abundant fruit brought forth by Father Solanus Casey’s work in its behalf, to say nothing of the work of so many other priests and consecrated religious who have helped to propagate the book.

Father Solanus loved Our Lady, and gloried in her privileges in the same manner as the very learned Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, C.SS.R. himself:

Delight in the Glories of Mary

Among chosen souls Fr, Solanus had quite a number of persons devoted, like himself, to Mother Mary's biography of the Mother of God. If anyone discovered a new beauty in the work, or pointed up something that he had not sufficiently noticed he rejoiced and would literally weep for joy when told of it. To those who opposed him or this work, he was courteous but would not argue. He simple pitied them and prayed for them. It was the wonderful depth of the mystical speculations in this work that touched his heart. He had the most profound, indescribable admiration, veneration and love for the Mother of God, and he never ceased to bless her, and the days she came to him, and the day he found out about this work. He lived a truly holy life with Christ and Mary. Ever charitable, meek, modest, humble, and patient, he led a life of union with Our Lord and His Holy Mother which his Brethren could only suspect, but they could never lift the veil that God Himself and Fr. Solanus had place over it. Only on the occasion of his Diamond Religious Jubilee did he confide to us that Our Lady had twice appeared to him in his youth. Beyond that golden silence as far as we are concerned. The writer lived in intimate friendship and true veneration of Fr, Solanus for about four years and four months till May 2, last year, when the writer was sent to the Capuchin Mission in Bluefields, Nicaragua, Central America. One of the last weeks together with him, the writer told him that Mother Mary of Agreda had appeared on a wild West TV show which the writer witnessed. The show claimed that somewhere in New Mexico (where, centuries ago, Mother Mary of Agreda had been sent by God in bilocation 500 times to instruct the Indians and prepare them for Baptism by the Franciscan Friars) Mother Mary was still appearing and protecting property of good honest people. Fr. Solanus was very pleased with this fact, and inquired simply about her, and when told that she was shown on film he smiled broadly to think that Mother Mary of three centuries ago had come to modern TV.

Such was the devoted and beloved Fr. Solanus Casey. If anyone disbelieves in the power and charm of Mother Mary's work on the Blessed Virgin Mary, let him kneel down and read it in all its four volumes, praying often for light to understand it, because it is “hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to little ones.” The prayers and example of Fr. Solanus will undoubtedly help in the future as in the past to bring many to read this work, to call on God for mercy, and to have a greater and more tender love for Our Blessed Lord, Our Savior, and for His wonderful Immaculate Virgin Mother Mary. (Father Cuthbert Gumbinger, O.F.M., Cap., “Father Solanus Casey: Capuchin Agreda Devotee,” The Age of Mary: An Exclusively Marian Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, January-February 1958, p. 112.)

Father Solanus Casey’s devotion to The Mystical City of God was never rebuked by his superiors, who told him only that he could not require those who sought him for advice to purchase it, principally out of consideration for the cost of the four volumes (ten dollars was a whole lot of money in the 1940s; indeed, my late father made five dollars a week in 1943 as a veterinarian for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Animal Hospital in Manhattan after he had graduated from the School of Veterinary Medicine of the then-named Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in February of that year before being drafted to serve in the United States Navy later in the year). Father Casey brought thousands upon thousands of souls closer to Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother, thus drawing these souls out of the muck and the mire of the world and its utterly vain conceits.

In Defense of the Value of The Mystical City of God

Yet it is that a few people have complained to me over the years about my quoting from The Mystical City of God. Some, including a good friend who died in 2012 from stomach cancer, had a visceral dislike for the work. Others have commented to me that The Mystical City of God is “no good” to read, that is “harmful” to souls and “offensive.” How could it have been that Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., could read the four volumes of The Mystical City of God on his knees before Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament a total of three times in his priestly life and give such sound advice to souls if The Mystical City of God was “no good,” “harmful” and “offensive"?

Yes, some scoffers might attempt to claim that Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., was but a simplex priest and lacked the “intellectual tools” necessary to discern the inherent “harm” in The Mystical City of God. Such misguided individuals would do well to consult the very words of Our Lord that were quoted earlier in this commentary:

Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. [24] But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. [25] At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.

[26] Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. [27] All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him. [28] Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. [29] Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Matthew 11: 21-30.)

At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? [2] And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them,[3] And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. [5] And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. (Matthew 18: 1-5)

Yes, we can learn from the “little ones,” those who are not considered to be learned as the most important lesson for any one of us to learn is humility, and Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., had the humility to accept his designation as a simplex priest as the particular will of God for him in his priestly life, and it was this humility that caused him to open the pages of The Mystical City of God and find within them the hidden treasures of spiritual wisdom that led many of his devotees to lay aside the “old man” of this passing, mortal vale of tears for the “new man” who contemplates on the things of Heaven and aspires only to please Our Lord as His consecrated slave through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.  

While the era of Divine Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, Saint John the Evangelist, in 125 A.D., God has seen fit in His ineffable mercy to provide various saints and mystics with private revelations that, though not part of the Sacred Deposit of Faith and thus not binding upon Catholics, nevertheless are beneficial to feed the faith and spiritual practices of Catholics. Moreover, Holy Mother Church, guided by the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, God the Holy Ghost, as she is, has seen fit to institute liturgical feasts and to bless sacramentals that originated in private revelations. The Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, after all, and the practice of the Nine First Fridays were based upon the direct request that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ made to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in private revelations, and it is certainly the case that Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in response to Our Lady's Fatima Messages.

Additionally, the Sabbatine Privilege, is based on a private revelation of Our Lady to Jacques Cardinal D’Euse, the future Pope John XXII, and the last true pope thus far to have borne the name of John:

In the night between the 15th and 16th of July of the year 1251, the gracious Queen of Carmel confirmed to her sons [the Carmelites] by a mysterious sign the right of citizenship she had obtained for them in their newly adopted countries [of the West]; as mistress and mother of the entire religious state she conferred upon them with her queenly hands the scapular, hitherto the distinctive garb of the greatest and most ancient family of the West. On giving St. Simon Stock this badge, ennobled by contact with her sacred fingers, the Mother of God said to him: 'Whosoever shall die in this habit shall not suffer eternal flames.' But not against hell fire alone was the all-powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother to be felt by those who should wear the scapular. In 1316, when every holy soul was imploring heaven to put an end to that long and disastrous widowhood of the Church, which followed in the death of Clement V, the Queen of Saints appeared to James d'Euse, whom the world was soon to hail as John XXII; she foretold to him his approaching elevation to the Sovereign Pontificate, and at the same time recommended him to publish the privilege she had obtained from her Divine Son for her children of Carmel--viz., a speedily deliverance from purgatory. 'I, their Mother, will graciously go down to them on the Saturday after their death, and all whom I find in purgatory I will deliver and will bring to the mountain of life eternal.' These are the words of our Lord herself, quoted by John XII in the Bull which he published for the purpose of making known the privilege and which was called the Sabbatine Bull on account of the day chosen by the glorious benefactress for the exercise of her mercy.

We are aware of the attempts made to nullify the authenticity of these heavenly concessions; but our extremely limited time will not allow us to follow up these worthless struggles in all their endless details. The attack of the chief assailant, the too famous Lounoy, was condemned by the Apostolic See, and after, as well as before, these contradictions, the Roman Pontiffs confirmed, as much as need be, by their supreme authority, the substance and even the letter of the precious promises. The reader may find in special works the enumeration of the many indulgences with which the Popes have, time after time, enriched the Carmelite family, as if earth would vie with heaven in favouring it. The munificence of Mary, the pious gratitude of her sons for the hospitality given them by the West, and lastly, the authority of St. Peter's successors, soon made these spiritual riches accessible to all Christians, by the instruction of the Confraternity of the holy Scapular, the members whereof participate in the merits and privileges of the whole Carmelite Order. Who shall tell the graces, often miraculous, obtained through this humble garb? Who could count the faithful now enrolled in the holy militia? When Benedict XIII, in the eighteenth century, extended the feast of July 16 to the whole Church, he did but give an official sanction to the universality already gained by the cultus of the Queen of Carmel. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.)

One disbelieves in the Brown Scapular and the Sabbatine Privilege at his own eternal peril.

Obviously, there will always be skeptics about private revelations. However, one of the proofs of the soundness of these revelations is that, apart from the first consideration that they contain nothing contrary to Divine Revelation, they show evidence of bearing abundant fruit over the course of time, and it is certainly the case that a harvest of such good fruit has been reaped in the souls of those who have had the humility to read The Mystical City of God.

Try as some might, therefore, to dismiss Father Solanus Casey’s devotion to and promotion of The Mystical City of God as a result of an alleged lack of intellectual discernment or a supposed lack of knowledge of the book’s history, this kind of dismissive attitude cannot be used against a latter day devotee of the Venerable Mary of Agreda and The Mystical City of God, the late Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D., who opened my own skeptical eyes to the beauties of Our Lady’s own story as told to her chosen instrument, a daughter of Spain.

Although Sharon had been devoted to the Venerable Mary of Agreda and The Mystical City of God, my attitude was one of skepticism. As I explained in “Bookended From Birth Unto Birth” seven and one-half years ago now, I am slow to believe in accounts of mystical experiences and of private revelations, and I was particularly slow to put much credence in detailed information about the Hidden Years of the Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. My heart was hardened by lacking the humility to believe that The Mystical City of God was indeed the work of the Mother of God through her chosen instrument, the Venerable Mary of Agreda.

This skeptical attitude began to change in 2008 when Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D., read from The Mystical City of God at the breakfast table following Holy Mass on a First Saturday in the basement of his condominium in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Father Martin Stepanich was a well-trained scholar and an actual theologian with an earned doctorate in Sacred Theology. His simple act of reading from The Mystical City of God opened my eyes, and the scales began to fall therefrom as I began to quote from the only English edition of the spiritual masterpiece that could never have been solely the work of the Venerable Mary of Agreda. I have relied on it ever since.

Father Martin also gave us a copy of the January-February 1958 edition of The Age of Mary, which was a bi-monthly journal published by the Servants of Mary (the Servite Fathers), that was devoted in its entirety to The Mystical City of God and to the Venerable Mary of Agreda. This particular issue of The Age of Mary is a treasure-trove of scholarly research that examined and addressed each of the attacks upon the The Mystical City of God that has been waged ever since it was first published. The issue contains twenty-five articles that fill one hundred twenty-seven pages. Its contents must be read with care by anyone seeking answers concerning the background of the attacks upon The Mystical City of God and upon the person of the Venerable Mary of Agreda.

The first article in that January-February edition of The Age of Mary was written by the Right Reverend Monsignor John S. Sabo, who was ordained on June 14, 1930, and was the pastor of Our Lady of Hungary Church in South Bend, Indiana, at the time, and it was entitled “An Apology for The Mystical City of God”:

Some years ago I became acquainted with a set of books known as The Mystical City of God, written by Sister Mary of Jesus of Agreda.

I was impressed by the recommendations for the book by men high in authority in the Church.

My first anxiety came when I heard it was on the Index. I checked. It is not on the Index. It had been on the Index, once upon a time, for a period of about 3 months. If the Church saw fit to remove this prohibition form the book, it is not only safe, but of interest for reading.

I would like to insert here a foreword from a book by the Abbe J. A. Boullan:


“The volume which we now offer to the public, under the title of The Admirable Life of the Glorious Patriarch St. Joseph, is a faithful extract, without change, modification, or alteration, taken verbatim et literatim from the celebrated production Le Cite Mystique, of Mary of Jesus of Agreda. Hence all the approbations conferred on the latter work are applicable to this. We subjoin a sketch of these various approbations which guarantee the authenticity, since they are copied from the acts of the process for the beatification and canonization of the servant of God, Mary of Agreda

1. Approbation of the bishop of the place where this servant of God died in the odor of sanctity, and also of that where the work was published. Bishops (as everyone knows) are the judges, in the first instance, of the doctrine of the books which are published in places under their jurisdiction.

2. Approbation of the inquisition of Spain, who examined it, word for word, and authorized its publication and diffusion.

3. Approbation of all religious bodies appointed to examine this work. They have bestowed unbounded praises upon it, and recommend it as a fruit of the Holy Spirit of God.

4. Approbation of the most celebrated universities, which, after a minute examination have declared that this book contains nothing contrary to faith or morals, and who have exalted it beyond measure, as the Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XIV attests in his decree of 1748. The University of Paris alone offers an exception, because at that epoch, it was controlled by the influence of Jansenism.

5. Finally, the Roman Church, after having placed this work on the Index, August 4th, 1681, on account of the controversy which it excited, withdrew it on the 9th of November the same year. This last decree is of such force, that in 1713 a bishop having prohibited the reading of it, the Holy Office declared this prohibition to be of no effect, and obliged the bishop to retract it, as being contrary to the decree of the 9th of November of 1681 of Innocent XI, which decree, said the Holy Congregation, has the force of an obligatory law throughout the Universal Church. Qui haet aures audiendi adiat.

Alexander VII authorized the reading of it “oraculo vivae vocis.” Clement IX, in 1704, prohibited its being placed on the Index. And last of all, in 1729, under Pope Benedict XIII, of holy memory, the Sacred Congregation of Rites promulgated an ample and unanimous decree, which allows this book to be read and retained without any further examination. Hence, he who, by whatever rank, dignity, or honor he may be vested, presumes to forbid the reading of this work, which has been approved by the Holy See, will be obliged, if required, to make a public retraction.

Thus, pious reader, the cause is ended. Read the book, study the book, and study it without hesitation, for Rome, who cannot err, has spoken. –The Abbe J. A. Boullan

I will add no further comment on whether or not the book is condemned.

In this day of artificially aroused interest brought on by clever advertising there is another incident that makes the book provocative. A group of people, overzealous in their endeavor against the enemies of the Church, have added Agreda leaflets to their literature. These people meant well, but because of the nature of their writings have done a disservice to the good book they would thus advertise. Should the Klan urge you to read Shakespeare, you certainly would not discard all Shakespeare.

Let us not get into the other argument whether or not Sister Mary of Jesus is worthy to be canonized. Much has been, and much will be, written on it. After all, Holy Mother Church will or will not declare on that in time. Our sole concern is with the book. Is it or is it not worth reading?

We read what we love to read. We read anything and everything from and about those we love. We have observed people tackle the newspaper, rush to the comics or the sport page. We have seen priests buy a half dozen papers to read every word written about their favorite baseball or football team. Choice phrases and quoted and requoted. This book, The Mystical City of God, is about the Blessed Virgin Mary, someone we love. It is about a real heroine to us priests.

Now, let us suppose for a moment that it does not bear the stamp of approval of the Church as do the Scriptures. Neither do a lot of the writings of the Fathers or of the Saints, and yet we love them. Thomas a Kempis has never been Beatified and yet we love his writings. We have heard a Bishop base an entire talk on Thompson, and I am sure all us who heard it like it.

Will the reading of this book harm us? We are priests. We have had Theological training. We are to continue reading. Let us be honest: we do much reading that is not only useless but even harmful. We clergy in spite of our learning are harmed by the same tempter that harms our faithful. Would it not be wise if we read and pondered over instructions such as these:

“. . . I wish to renovate in thee the enlightened teaching which thou hast received in order that thou mayest treat with the Spouse in the highest reverence: for humility and reverential fear should increase in the same measure in which especial and extraordinary favors are conferred upon it. On account of not being mindful of this truth, many souls either make themselves unworthy or incapable of great blessings, or, if they receive them, grow into a dangerous rudeness and torpidity which offends the Lord very much.” (The Mystical City of God, Incarnation paragraph 525)

In reading this book the Clergy will at times express surprise at the details of the descriptions in The Mystical City of God. They will perhaps think that the good Sister in Spain had a tremendous imagination, but also they will admit she knew her Scriptures. Your heart like mine will frequently be envious of her accuracy.

In the “Instructions of Our Lady” you will find solid matter for meditation and examination of conscience.

One day Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty was a guest in our rectory and used my room to talk to those who wished to see him in private. On my return to the room I found him standing before the bookcase, arms braced on the bookcase, looking intently at the books on the shelves. I paused to watch, his gaze was intent on the four volumes, “The Conception”, “The Incarnation”, “The Transfixion” and “The Coronation”, the four volumes of The Mystical City of God by Sister Mary of Jesus of Agreda. (Monsignor John Sabo, “An Apology for The Mystical City of God,” The Age of Mary: An Exclusively Marian Magazine, Volume V, Number 1, January-February 1958, pp. 1-4.)

Although the late Monsignor John Sabo’s apology for The Mystical City of God was prosaic and to the point, it demonstrates his great love for Our Lady and provides readers seeking the truth about The Mystical City of God with a cogent summary of the facts. Monsignor Sabo's summary of the facts was meant to speak to the hearts of his fellow priests in a very practical manner. Indeed, he was challenging priests to rise out of the torpor of their worldliness to read something that would help them foster a deep devotion to Our Lady and her vital role in our salvation.

Monsignor Sabo also provided us with good, sound pastoral advice about needless reading, including sports and also the madness that is of naturalism that is consuming so many Catholics now. It is better for us to read The Mystical City of God than to waste our precious Catholic time on that which is needless, no less that which agitates us to no good end.

Monsignor Sabo’s apology, however, was only the introduction to the special “The Mystical City of God” issue of the Age of Mary well over fifty-eight years ago now. Many of the other articles penetrate into the depths of one’s soul. Others, such as “The Moral Crucifixion of The Mystical City of God” and “Agreda and the Popes,” by Canon Zotico Royo Campos, contain detailed scholarly examinations of the efforts by Jansenists, Gallicans and rationalists to discredit The Mystical City of God. Some of these efforts were quoted in a favorable manner by the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia, which is why it is necessary to go to the original sources and not mere encyclopedia articles whenever possible.

One of the most important articles contained in the special Age of Mary issue that Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D., gave us eight years ago contained a summary of some twenty-eight articles that Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., published in L’Univers in France chronicling efforts by the Gallicans of his own day to discredit The Mystical City of God, up to and including the false claim that it stands condemned by the authority of the Catholic Church:

Here are several of those summaries:

May 23, 1858

In his Introduction Dom Gueranger calls The City of God “ . . . this marvelous summary . . . her astonishing, if not superhuman, work . . . cette somme marveileuse . . . son oeuvre etonnante, sinon surhumaine.” (It might be noted here how Pope Leo XIII was later to speak of Mary of Agreda’s masterpiece as “another Summa.”)

August 1, 1858

Dom Gueranger discusses private revelations in the history of the Church. “ . . . in all periods the Church . . . has had in her bosom souls to whom it pleases God to communicate extraordinary lights of which He lets some rays fall onto the community of the faithful. . . . What counts for the Christian who wishes to know the things of God in the measure of which is permitted to all the children of the Church, there are also certain lights which God communicates to souls whom He has chosen, and that those lights pierce through the clouds, when He so determines, in such a way that they spread far and wide for the consolation of simple hearts and also to be a certain trial for those who are wise in their own opinion . . . those to whom the seer communicates what he has thus learned from a Divine source, being reduced to a human and fallible intermediary, need give it only that assent which we give to probable matters, an assent to which we give the name “pious belief.” No doubt this is little, if we consider the invincible certitude of Faith; it is much, if we think of the shadows which surround us.”

An analysis of the possibilities of errors and contradictions in private revelations. God permits these because He guarantees only Holy Scripture.

“But there always remains that super-human tone, which is gentle and strong at the same time, an echo of the Divine words which resounded in the soul, that unction which penetrates into the reader’s mind and soon obliges him to say: the source of this is not human. Our heart slowly takes fire as we read, our soul feels desires for virtue that it had not yet felt, the mysteries of faith appear more luminous to us, bit by bit the world and its hopes vanish, and the longing for the heavenly good, which seemed to have been dozing in us, awakens with new fervor.”

September 12, 1858

“The reader . . . remains completely free to consider this vast synthesis as a purely human work. Is it merely that? It would be difficult to sustain this assertion, if one takes into account the whole of the elements which it has brought forth. However that may be, the least that might be said in praise of this work is that it remains one of the most imposing monuments of human genius and that it presupposes in its author the most marvelous understanding of the mysteries of Christianity, the most profound knowledge of its moral teaching, and a rare comprehension of Holy Scripture.”

December 5, 1858

What should one think of the source of this work? Between the two extremes . . . i.e. entirely human or entirely divine. . . . “I should think that one may say with more assurance that perhaps just as all is not human in this marvelous book, similarly all may not be the product of Divine communications.” He refutes the idea that it is all due to hallucination, as it has too much order and system.

January 15, 1859

“It is a book which we consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to know and study an early period in our life.” In this issue Dom Gueranger also records in detail the background of the Sorbonne censure.

January 31, 1859

The Sorbonne censure was basically due to a profound theological deviation in France at the end of the 17th century. Detailed contrast of the healthy Catholicism of the first half with the Jansenism of the second half of that century. Most of Mary of Agreda’s Mariology is to be found in the works of Olier; quotations prove it.

February 13, 1859

Due to the tragic split in philosophic thought between faith and reason, theology and mysticism became narrow. Then in 1663 some Sorbonne doctors gave sense of the supernatural diminished. Louis XIV, a list of propositions restricting the Pope’s authority. Similarity with the Church’s twin doctrine concerning the Mother of God, in 1668 the Church of Paris attempted to suppress a liturgical passage referring to her bodily Assumption. In 1673 a Jansenist and even Protestant-minded pamphlet against traditional Mariology appeared. A Jansenist Bishop approved and defend it. Rome put it on the Index.

March 13, 1859

In 1680, the Jansenists altered the Paris breviary; the Annunciation became Annunitatie Dominica. [Droleskey note here: the Protestant and Judeo-Masonic Novus Ordo liturgical rite, which has many Jansenist influences, also refers to the “Annunciation of the Lord,” not the “Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.] Baillet published his work on devotion to Mary, which was recommended by the Sorbonne, but placed on the Index September 7, 1695. The Sorbonne’s revenge was to condemn the recently translated Mystical City of God.

March 28, 1859

Analysis of Baillet’s errors. The great Jesuit preacher Bourdaloue opposed them.

May 15, 1859

Dom Gueranger’s sources on the Sorbonne censure. Bousset’s role: he wanted to prevent Mary of Agreda’s work from being taken as a 5th Gospel.

May 29, 1859

The beginning of the intrigues at Sorbonne.

June 15, 1859

Mary of Agreda’s opponents called her a Lutheran. The rules of the Faculty were disregarded. Political influenced was used.

July 19, 1859

Protestations of several doctors against these irregularities. “Finally, the regulations of the Sorbonne having been scandalously and brutally violated in the counting of the votes, the nullity of the judgment follows, and one can say in all truth that, no matter what was or was not the competence of the Faculty in a cause that the Holy See had reserved to itself inasmuch as the censure was null and void due to the absence of the essential formalities, it is inexact to say that the Mystical City of God was condemned by the Sorbonne.”

July 27, 1859

The Apostolic Nuncio denounced to Rome the disorders and intrigues that led this censure. List of publications resulting therefrom. The University of Salamanca declared the Sorbonne’s censure “entirely unjust, entirely null.” Cardinal D’Aguirre deplored the Sorbonne’s action; according to him, Mary of Agreda’s orthodoxy was complete and her profundity above and beyond human genius.” (“A Digest of the Articles by Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., Abbot of Solesmes, on Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda, in L’Univers, Paris, 1858-1859, Age of Mary, pp. 101-104.)

Although some might scoff at this digest as having been provided in an issue of a Marian journal that took a favorable view of the Venerable Mary of Agreda and The Mystical City of God and is thus unreliably biased, God’s Holy Providence has so arranged it that one can now examine Dom Prosper Gueranger’s articles in an English translation that was published in July 4, 2016: Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.: Maria d'Agreda and The Mystical City of God: 28 Articles Written Between 1858 and 1859, although this "translation" appears to be computer-generated and is thus pretty useless. For the moment, therefore, those fluent in the French language can read the articles in their original format by doing directly to:Those who are wary of the correctness of this new book's English translation can go directly to the articles as they were published in the French language: Dom Gueranger: Saintes et Mystiques: Marie d'Agreda.

Those who wish to question the Abbot of Solesmes’s scholarship must do the author of The Liturgical Year, itself a masterpiece of history, liturgy, theology and devotional prayers, the justice of reading the abbot’s own words and reflecting upon them. Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., a truly learned Benedictine, fought Gallicanism in his own day, and he knew that the hatred of The Mystical City of God in his own native France was driven by nothing other than the adversary’s own preternatural forces.

No, it was not only the simplex priest from Superior, Wisconsin, Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., who counseled so many out of the wisdom that he learned by prayerfully meditating upon the four volumes of The Mystical City of God, who recognized the value of the Venerable Mary of Agreda’s spiritual masterpiece. Learned priests and scholars such as Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., and Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M., S.T.D., recognized this value and promoted it as good for the faithful without any ecclesiastical censures being imposed upon them for doing so.

Those who have expressed displeasure at my own citation of The Mystical City of God over the years do not have to agree with my love for this work and my reliance upon it. However, none can say, as some have tried to convince me, that is “no good” and “harmful” to souls. The testimony provided in this wholly inadequate reflection proves that there has been abundantly beneficial fruit in the lives of souls over the past four centuries, which is why I will continue to cite it.

Indeed, I did so very liberally in Blessed Among Women: Defending the Sublime Privileges of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Going back to "Blessed Among Women" I feel it essential to tell you that a certain passage from "The Mystical City of God" that you quoted concerning the Nativity where it is stated that Michael the Prince of the angels stood at the Blessed Virgin's side, overwhelmed me as I read it, quite unexpectedly, but it seemed to put into perspective the enormity of the occasion. You may wish to know that you are responsible for my growing awareness of and deepening devotion to Our Blessed Lady and has resulted in me obtaining "The Mystical City of God" which so far I find intensely uplifting.

No one can say that it is “no good” or “harmful” to be moved as this reader was by the description of the Nativity of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as found in The Mystical City of God.

Alas, my own work is very minor in this matter. English-speaking Catholics worldwide are indebted to the selfless work of Mr. Timothy A. Duff, who labored daily for eight years to produce a corrected English edition of The Mystical City of God. This work that was used by Father Solanus Casey and by Father Martin Stepanich for the enrichment of their own interior lives and to aid souls can be accessed online quite easily, and the cost for its four volumes in book form is very reasonable. Moreover, those desiring to listen to The Mystical City of God may do so by going to the Catholic Tradition Sermons website (go to the Sermons on Our Lady page and then scroll down to the recordings for The Mystical City of God). Please say three Hail Marys for Mr. Duff and his family—and for the webmaster of the aforementioned website and the person who recorded the text of the books.

Yes, you see, Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., got Chase to open the window of our minivan’s sliding door because he wanted me to write about The Mystical City of God. His life as a simplex priest was defined by Holy Mass and by his devotion to the Mother of God, especially through her Most Holy Rosary and by the singular insights he drew from The Mystical City of God.

We can only pray that our own deaths will be as simply holy as that enjoyed by Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap, on July 31, 1957:

For several minutes Father Solanus had been whispering. His voice was too weak for anyone to catch the words, and his eyes were closed.

Gently, the orderly and the nurse laid him back upon the bed.

Suddenly, his eyes opened wide, and he who for days had lain prostrate from weakness, raised himself and said, clearly – “I give my soul to Jesus Christ.”

 The words were a proclamation of victory, and a testament. By them he willed his being to God, and gave final expression to his rejection of the hell of egotism and self-worship.

He fell back, and the ebbing life flowed into eternity.

Monsignor Casey, who had been summoned by telephone, rapped on the closed door.

Mother Aileen opened, and told him --”He is gone.”

The Monsignor stood looking on his brother for a few seconds. Then he said --”Shall we recite the rosary?”

He led the first two decades, when his voice gave out. Mother Aileen took over and continued to the end of the five decades. After this, Monsignor talked with those present, including the orderly, asking the details of his brother's last moments.

Father Solanus had died at 11 o'clock.

The date was July 31, 1957.

It had been at 11 o'clock, 53 years to the day, that he had ascended the altar steps in St. Joseph's Church in Appleton, Wisconsin, to offer his first Mass. (James Patrick Derum, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin, The Fidelity Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968, pp. 271-272.)

Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M. Cap., thus died in the spirit of holy simplicity in which he lived, humbly entrusting himself to Our Lord after a life of tender devotion to His Most Blessed Mother, especially through her Most Holy Rosary and by reading The Mystical City of God, leaving behind only few earthly effects (see the appendix below for the list of these effects). Much more importantly, however, Father Solanus  left behind spiritual riches that are still helping souls today, including the means of his humble devotion to and propagation of The Mystical City of God. The good spiritual fruit that he left behind is immense and still growing.

Will the same be said of us after we die?

May Our Lady pray for us to have the same humility as did Father Solanus Casey, O.F.M., Cap., that it may be so.

Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!

Our Lady of the Rosary, us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us. 

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.

Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.

Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.

Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.

Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.

Saint Giles, pray for us.

The Twelve Holy Brothers, pray for us.


Father Solanus Casey's List of Personal Effects

Several years after Father Solanus died, Capuchin superiors asked a Guild member to list his possessions, which since his death had been reposing in a trunk.

This is the list –

a small crucifix

a framed picture of the Sacred Heart

two framed pictures of the Blessed Virgin

a pair of worn sandals

a pair of shoes

two habits

three cords

an overcoat


two pens

a small alarm clock

a harmonica

undergarments and sox – threadbare, mended and tattered

an old red stole

a set of vestments (used when he offered his last Mass at St. Bonaventure's on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 28, 1957)

a framed picture of his family (taken forty-four years before his death)

a few snapshots

a few holy cards

two volumes of The Mystical City of God

several pamphlets

four prayerbooks

a wooden statue of St. Anthony.

He had left a violin, also, it was being cared for by a friend.

These things, after sixty Capuchin years, he left – these and more intense fires of love for God, and fellowmen in thousands of hearts; fires to ignite other hearts through generations.

Only a man so poor could have left a legacy so rich.  (James Patrick Derum, The Porter of Saint Bonaventure’s: Father Solanus Casey, Capuchin, The Fidelity Press, Detroit, Michigan, 1968, pp. 278-279.)