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Father Solanus and the Eucharist

October 20, 2023
Blessed Solanus Casey
Fr. Larry Webber, OFM Cap.

Homily of Bro. Larry Webber, OFM Cap. at closing Mass of the Father Solanus Guild Day of Recollection – October 19, 2023

Suggested Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, 13:12 & John 1:47-51

Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and His presence continues in those who carry His wounds and His suffering.

I desire to reflect with you on the power and importance of the Eucharist in the life and the spirituality of both Saint Francis and Blessed Solanus.

We have heard and we know from our life’s experiences that trauma redeemed, as well as the Gospel spirit of poverty, are fundamental for understanding St Francis and his power in the world and in the history of the Church, as well as in his humble son Blessed Solanus, and all the ways he has impacted on this more local community, the Body of Christ here in the Church of Detroit and in the United States. Since his death, and with the beginning of his cause, his Gospel witness has spread in humble ways throughout the world. The experiences of trauma and the encounter with the blessedness of holy poverty became doorways to grace in both Saint Francis and Blessed Solanus, through their meditation on the Eucharist, the Body of Christ. For both of them, the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist was a reality that led them not only to awe and humble adoration, but also to the urgency of a real and true following of the Christ they met in the Eucharist. Eucharist for them was not theological or theoretical: it was real, an intimate encounter with Christ. And they encountered and served this real presence of Christ in his body, the Church.

In the living Body of Christ, the Church, as Saint Paul says in the first suggested passage, there are teachers and Prophets and healers. But in the Body of Christ there are also those who, as Jesus says of Nathaniel in the Gospel, are without guile. It is important to remember that in the flesh, when he walked in Israel, Christ, the incarnation of God among us, embraced and walked with the wounded and the sick and those who were counted as nothing. I would want to add to the list of those who are part of the body of Christ the many people with special needs, especially many whose whole life is filled with suffering from physical realities: some who are not even able to communicate their pain or speak: the true “voiceless”

It is important to recognize that they are a vital part of the Body of Christ, especially because they mirror the suffering and trauma and poverty that Christ knew. They are privileged mirrors of that love of God, that love that, as Saint Paul says at the end of that passage, is the greatest gift of all. As I was reflecting on this, an incident that happened to me here at St Bonaventure’s when I was living here came to mind that’s such a clear example of that truth. It was a Sunday morning before Mass, and I was having breakfast in the Monastery with a group of people who had come from one of our Parishes in Chicago. They shared the story from their Parish of a young man with Downs Syndrome who loved to be the Cross bearer at Mass. He would sit in the sanctuary and looking all over: up at the ceiling and all around. After Mass, his mother would always ask him what he was looking at? And he would always ask her: “don’t you see Jesus and all the angels and saints?” His mother thought it was his simple-minded faith. Later, at Mass that day here in the Church I was sitting in the back, and it was Father Tom Nguyen’s first time as a deacon preaching here at St. Bonaventure’s. Suzie Gavin, a dear friend was here, along with her son Jimmy, who has suffered his whole life from Angelman Syndrome, the lack of a chromosome which causes him constant seizures, and has kept him from ever really speaking, even though he recognizes people and is very affectionate. He’s now 43 years old, and Suzie and Jim Gavin love him and care for him 24 hours a day. That day Jimmy was having a hard time, and Suzie wanted to listen to the homily. She was rolling him in his wheelchair to keep him moving because when he moves it seems to help him calm down. But Suzie was getting uncomfortable because Jimmy was groaning out loud. I told Susie to follow me, and I took her through the back door of Church, through the Monastery, to our Chapel behind the altar, and sat her in the seat that Father Solanus would sit in when the Friars would pray. I continued to roll Jimmy around the back-Chapel while we listened to Mass over the loudspeaker. But at the time of consecration, I wanted to be present, so I wheeled Jimmy to the door of the back Chapel from where we could see the Priest-Celebrant. At the moment the consecrated Bread was raised, Jimmy lifted himself from his wheelchair with his arms outstretched, and as soon as the host was placed on the altar, he sat back down. And when the chalice with the sacred blood of Christ was raised, he once again raised himself from his wheelchair chair with his arms stretched out. I was flabbergasted. I realized that Jimmy was seeing the same thing as the simple, innocent young man in Chicago with Downs Syndrome would see. Jesus appears to the simple of heart, the humblest. He is present to those who are innocent of heart. And it is truly Jesus who was present. I’m convinced that Jimmy sees him.

St Paul in the first reading says that we see now indistinctly, but then we shall see face to face. I believe these dear brothers and sisters with special needs already see Jesus face to face, especially at Eucharist. They fulfill in our very midst, without our perceiving it, that Gospel prophecy of Christ: you will see Angels ascending and descending on the Son of man. Indeed, they do, and have. They see now in that gift of the Eucharist the true presence of Christ which we see with the eyes of faith. One day we along with them will be brought into the full presence of Christ and the kingdom. And they are together we shall see him face to face. But in this in-between-time we have this race to see, to taste, to worship into a door the true presence of Christ present to us in the Eucharist that we share.

May Christ who’s the Eucharistic Lord invite, inspire and enlighten us from the Eucharist as He did to St. Francis of Assisi and Bl. Solanus Casey

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