Reverence, Solanus, Holiness…
Blessed Solanus Casey
By Br. Antony Julius Milton, OFM Cap.
Reverence was the fundamental virtue that accompanied Blessed Solanus in all his ministries to the poor and the sick. It is, in fact, the core virtue that led him on the path of holiness. Bl. Solanus’ reverence towards the poor and sick didn’t emerge from the status nor the character of those people. Rather, his reverence for them was born out of a deeper spiritual conviction of them being created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27). Following Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, Bl. Solanus made honest efforts to see the sick and the poor as God would see them. And such reverence toward them was possible because of the love Bl. Solanus had for them. And that love is after the model of God Himself who tells the people of Israel, “You are precious and honored in my sight,” (Isaiah 43:4).
It is the same reverential love that Jesus exemplified throughout the Gospel by word and deed. Nothing hindered Jesus from looking at the poor, the sick, the marginalized, and the so-called sinners of his time from a reverential point of view that God, the Father has towards His children. It is the same call of reverence that St. Paul invites the Philippians to respond to in his letter to them, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves,” (Phil. 2:3). Bl. Solanus was someone who responded to the call well and attained the heights of holiness in the sight of God.
Bl. Solanus knew very well that by serving the poor and the sick with tremendous reverence, God liberated him from his own self-doubts and inability to excel in linguistic talents that were expected of him to be a priest in his time. He also knew deep down in his heart that it is only when he began to serve the sick and the poor with reverence for them in his heart that God transformed him. And he became more and more aware of how God was working through his weaknesses.
St. Francis of Assisi also had such a transformative experience when he embraced and kissed the leper whom he abhorred in the beginning. It is only when St. Francis began to treat the lepers, the marginalized of his time, with reverence, his conversion began. The more he served them with reverence, the better he followed the poor, humble, and crucified Christ. Because in the lepers, St. Francis saw Christ Himself.
It is by reverentially serving the poor, the sick, and the marginalized people in our communities, in our neighborhood, and in our world, that a follower of Christ can grow in holiness after the model of St. Francis and Bl. Solanus. Oftentimes, it is the people we want to avoid and keep at distance for various reasons are the ones whom we are called to serve with reverence. And those very people can lead us to holiness. That is indeed a difficult call from Christ and Bl. Solanus to each of us. And so, we seek the intercession of Bl. Solanus to inspire us and intercede for us so that we love the poor and sick with reverence in his footsteps.
Lord, make me an instrument of reverence
and faithful servant of the sick and the poor
Help me to serve them wholeheartedly
after the example of Blessed Solanus, our brother
who listened, consoled, taught, and accompanied others
with deep respect and reverence
Inspire and strengthen me today
that I may serve others with joy
For, in listening to them, You listen to me
in consoling them, You console me
in teaching them, You teach me
in accompanying them, You accompany me on the journey of life