Capuchin Solanus Casey, Cardinal Van Thuan Advance Toward Sainthood

Venerable Casey will be beatified. The cardinal is now Venerable Van Thuan.

Venerable Solanus Casey, CC 3.0; Servant of God Nguyen Van Thuan, credit: Thuy Ho, CC 3.0
Venerable Solanus Casey, CC 3.0; Servant of God Nguyen Van Thuan, credit: Thuy Ho, CC 3.0 (photo: Wikipedia CC 30 Cardinal Van Thuan Credit Thuy Ho CC 30 CNA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday approved decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The causes for canonization of 12 individuals are now advanced, including American-born Capuchin Solanus Casey and Vietnamese Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.

In his May 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the congregation, Pope Francis recognized a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Solanus Casey, which allows for his beatification.

Venerable Casey was known for his great faith, attention to the sick and ability as a spiritual counselor.  

Born Bernard Casey on Nov. 25, 1870, he was the sixth child of 16 children born to Irish immigrants in Wisconsin. At age 17, he left home to work at various jobs, including as a lumberjack, a hospital orderly and a prison guard.  

Re-evaluating his life after witnessing a drunken sailor brutally stab a woman to death, he decided to act on a call he felt to enter the priesthood. Because of his lack of formal education, however, he struggled in the minor seminary and was eventually encouraged to become a priest through a religious order rather than through the diocese.

So in 1898, he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit. After struggling through his studies, in 1904, he was ordained a sacerdos simplex priest, meaning he could say Mass but not publicly preach or hear confessions.

He was very close to the sick and was highly sought after throughout his life, in part because of the many physical healings attributed to his blessings and intercession. He is also known for his fondness for playing the violin and singing, although he had a bad singing voice because of a childhood illness that damaged his vocal chords.   
Even in his 70s, Father Casey remained very active and would even join the younger religious men in a game of tennis or volleyball. He died from erysipelas, a skin disease, on July 31, 1957, at the age of 87.

Father Michael Sullivan, provincial minister of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, said May 4, “Long before we knew and loved Pope Francis, we had the example of Father Solanus, who lived the Gospel of mercy. Known for his compassion and simplicity, he drew many thousands to God.”

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit commented, “The beatification of Father Solanus Casey is an incomparable grace for the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit and for the whole community of Southeast Michigan. He is an inspiration to all us Catholics — and to all — of the power of grace to transform one’s life.”

The Pope also recognized the heroic virtue of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. He is now declared “Venerable,” a significant step forward in his cause.

Cardinal Van Thuan was born in Vietnam in 1928. He was ordained a priest of the Vicariate Apostolic of Hue in 1953 and appointed Bishop of Nha Trang in 1967.

He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Saigon in April 1975, six days before the city fell to the North Vietnamese army. Cardinal Van Thuan was imprisoned in a “re-education” camp by the communist government of Vietnam for 13 years, nine of them in solitary confinement.

While imprisoned, he smuggled out messages written on scraps of paper that were copied by hand and circulated among the Vietnamese community, eventually being printed in The Road of Hope.

He also wrote prayers in prison, which were later published in Prayers of Hope. He was allowed no religious items, but after sympathetic guards smuggled in a piece of wood and some wire for him, he was able to craft a small crucifix.

After being released from prison, he spent three years under house arrest before being permitted to visit Rome in 1991. He was exiled from Vietnam from that point until early 2001, and he resigned as Saigon’s coadjutor archbishop in 1994, when he was appointed vice president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He became the council’s president in 1998.

In 2000, he preached the Spiritual Exercises for the Roman Curia, which were subsequently published as Testimony of Hope.

He was made a cardinal by St. John Paul II in 2001 and died in Rome on Sept. 16, 2002, at the age of 74.

Three other causes were also approved for beatification Thursday: Venerable Maria of the Immaculate Conception, founder of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (1789-1828); Venerable Clara Fey, founder of the Institute of the Sisters of the Poor Baby Jesus (1815-1894); and Venerable Catalina de Maria, founder of the Congregation of the Servant Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (1823-1896).

Pope Francis has also approved the declaration of the martyrdom of Servant of God Luciano Botovasoa, layman and father, of the Third Order of St. Francis, killed in hatred of the faith in Vohipeno, Madagascar on April 17, 1947.

Also recognized were the heroic virtues of the Servants of God Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa of Florence (1872-1961); Giovanna Meneghini, founder of the congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary (1868-1918); Vincenza Cusmano, first superior general of the Congregation of the Poor Servants (1826-1894); Alessandro Nottegar, layman and father, founder of the Community of Regina Pacis (1943-1986); Edvige Carboni, laywoman (1880-1952); and Maria Guadalupe Ortiz de Landázuri y Fernández de Heredia, laywoman of the Personal Prelature of Santa Croce and of Opus Dei (1916-1975).