"He simply said oh don't worry, everything is going to be alright," Merling recalled.
That was 60 years ago. Merling's brother recovered and did not need amputation, and only recently passed away, just before Fr. Solanus' beatification.
"He was a man of great faith, confidence and trust in God," Merling said of Solanus. "And I think he often encouraged people to do the same."
Also present among the crowd at Ford Field were several youngsters whose namesake is Blessed Solanus. Among them was young Solanus Leyendecker, the 10-year-old son of John Leyendecker. The entire Leyendecker crew - including seven children and one on the way - made the five to six-hour van trip all the way from Cincinatti, Ohio to be present for the beatification.
John said he first learned about Blessed Solanus after picking up a book about his life during his years as a youth minister. At the time, his wife Lisa was pregnant with their second child, and he was so inspired by Fr. Solanus' life that he told his wife if their child was a boy, they'd name him Solanus.
"And she said you're nuts, we are not, because that name is a little far fetched," John recalled. "And I said, you gotta read this book, you'll love him."
Halfway through the book, Lisa was also convinced that they would name their child Solanus, if it were a boy. At the same time, she discovered her family had a personal connection to the holy friar: her mother told her the story of her great-grandfather who was cured of cancer after visiting Fr. Solanus when he was stationed in Indiana.
"So my wife came home and told me if this is a boy, we'll name him Solanus," John recalled. The Leyendeckers had a daughter - but named their next son, who is now 10, Solanus.
When they told their son they were going to his namesake's beatification, "he just lit up," John said.
"It's awesome," John said. "We played Catholic roulette on a saint's name, he wasn't even a saint yet, but we said we're going to name him after this guy because he's going to be raised to the altar one day. And here we are ten years later and in fact he is."
Louis Solanus Santo, the young son of Josh and Beth Santo from Denver, Colorado, was also able to be present for his namesake's beatification.
The Santos first heard the story of Fr. Solanus from a brother with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and they were inspired by the friar's holiness and humility.
(Story continues below)
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"We wanted our son to be inspired by Solanus Casey's humility and for him to see that God uses us to do his great work no matter how big or small or role in the world may appear," Beth told CNA.
"When we learned that Fr. Solanus' beatification was taking place in Detroit we felt it was an incredible opportunity for our son to get to know his namesake better. We also wanted to show him the importance of our friendships with the saints, our role models," Beth added.
"Most importantly, we wanted him to receive the special graces sure to be present at the Mass. We were blessed to be able to help our son be at this celebration and are so confident in Fr. Solanus' intercession!"
Blessed Solanus was originally from Wisconsin, and attended minor seminary at St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee. A large group of seminarians from Solanus' first seminary made the trip from Milwaukee to be present for Fr. Solanus' beatification.
Among them was Dr. Bill Evans, a seminarian for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., who said he found great inspiration in the life of Solanus Casey even before he entered the seminary.
Evans worked as a medical doctor before feeling called to discern the priesthood. He first learned about Fr. Solanus when he gave a presentation on the friar's life as a youth minister.
"He just moved me to my core when I was preparing to give this talk - the fact that he was a Wisconsin man was part of it, most of it was just that he was tireless in his perseverance, he trusted God with the greatest trust and simplicity," Evans told CNA.