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Capuchin Life

A black-and-white historic photograph of Capuchin friars and students in the courtyard of St. Francis of Assisi Monastery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Blessed Solanus is in the second row, seventh from left.

Very early in his religious life, Blessed Solanus formed the practice of writing simple resolutions as reminders to guide him on the way of perfection. In the novitiate he began writing these resolutions in a little notebook which today is preserved among his own writings. A very important little writing that we find there is the following list of five points:

Means for Acquiring the Love of God:

  1. Detachment of oneself from earthly affections – singleness of purpose.
  2. Meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ.
  3. Uniformity with the Divine Will.
  4. Mental Prayer – meditation and contemplation.
  5. Prayer – “Ask and it shall be given to you.”

After this he noted:

To preserve God’s presence:

  1. Raise your heart to Him by frequent aspirations.
  2. Make a good intention at the beginning of each week and frequently during its execution.

All these simple admonitions form a very worthy program to help one advance along the way of holiness. We can be sure that Fr. Solanus found them to be a reliable guide on his way to perfection. If one could take just a few of these points and follow them through perseveringly, one would surely grow in love for God, be able to live in His presence, and overcome all that could keep us from our true destiny, eternal life and happiness with God.

After his ordination, Blessed Solanus spent 20 years in New York. First in Yonkers and later in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and then in Harlem. His first assignment in Yonkers was remarkably similar to his childhood home on the banks of the Mississippi River in rural Wisconsin. At that time, Yonkers still had a somewhat rural character. From his room, young Brother Solanus could see the nearby Hudson River and think of his childhood along the Mississippi. Blessed Solanus’ first assignment at Sacred Heart in Yonkers caused his pastor to question how a “simplex priest” might fit in. Solanus first served as sacristan, then director of the altar servers, then porter or “doorkeeper,” answering the bell at the monastery door. These were minor jobs for rookie friars, but Fr. Solanus took great pride in it. How could it be demeaning to care for the church and the altar? His intense devotion to the Eucharist was fostered in the hours before the Blessed Sacrament. It was at the monastery door, though, where Blessed Solanus became a much-loved and sought-after counselor. Eventually, visitors came and asked for Solanus. Sick people sought his blessing and remarkable cures began to take place.

His next assisgnment took him to the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish. At the time, the Lower East Side was one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world.

Solanus would go on to minister at Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Harlem. He was assigned to St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit where he ministered as porter for 20 years from August 1, 1924 to July 23, 1945.

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