His devotion to Fr. Solanus began in high school, when a family friend who was dying of cancer was praying for the intercession of the then-Venerable Solanus Casey. Although the family friend passed away, Carlson’s interest was piqued in the man his friend had invoked.
“What ultimately drew me to him was his humble acceptance of God’s will,” Carlson said.
“He gratefully accepted God’s will and never complained about the hardships he was given. He was always submissive to his superiors viewing them as the voice through which God chose to tell Solanus the plan for his life.”
Carlson added that he has also often “thanked God ahead of time (as Solanus would do), through intercession of Solanus Casey, for healings of small ailments for them to disappear shortly after.”
It would have been enlightening to poll the audience to see how many present at the beatification had experienced Blessed Solanus’ healing intercession in their own lives, because it seemed nearly everyone had a story to tell in that regard.
Brother Richard Merling, O.F.M. Cap., a Capuchin brother based in Detroit, had the opportunity to meet Bl. Solanus in real life when he was still a teenager and had not yet discerned whether to join the same order as the friar.
Merling told CNA that he first met Fr. Solanus at the age of 15. Merling’s brother had been in a car accident, and had a badly injured leg that the doctors were going to amputate.
Desperate, Merling’s mother brought the family to see Fr. Solanus at the St. Bonaventure monastery in Detroit, seeking a miracle.
“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.
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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.