The second book that I received from The Catholic Company through their Reviewer Program was Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey by Michael H. Crosby, O.F.M. CAP. I chose this book because I've been interested in this holy man since I first read about him in a Word Among Us article in November 2003. I think my friend Fran read the same article that month, because she felt inspired to seek Fr. Solanus' intercession on my behalf while praying with me just days later. Either way, God was telling me something: learn more about my disciple Solanus Casey. His life and spirituality will touch your life and your spirituality.
The author of Thank God Ahead of Time, Michael Crosby, is one of the key people behind Solanus' cause of canonization. As part of his role, Crosby compiled all of Solanus' existing writings (including a journal and a ton of letters) and the testimonies and letters of many who knew Solanus personally (between 1870 and 1957). Crosby prepared several volumes of this material and sent it off to the reviewers who would determine Solanus' sanctity. Then he sat down and wrote Solanus' biography and spiritual "story" - this we have in a single volume, Thank God Ahead of Time.
Overall, I like and recommend the book. It's a bit dry/dragging in parts (especially the beginning), and Crosby's writing style is academic, stilted, and lacking in pizazz or poetry (the last chapter on Solanus' spirituality is particularly blah). But he does a fine job of conveying the story and soul of this humble, holy, inspiring servant of God, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey. His life was interesting enough to carry the book.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes by or about Solanus:
"Those who embrace [marriage] should do so determined to bear the burdens of the holy state they enter. They should remember that their duties and privileges are one and the same and must be taken as such if peace is to reign in the individual soul, in the family, and in human society." (p. 60-1)Lord, help me to accept the challenging responsibilities of my vocation with gratitude and thereby know joy and peace.
"Life is to live and life is to give and talents to use for good if you choose. Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God." (p. 122-3)Yeah, baby!
Of Solanus: "When he was speaking with you, you felt that he was constantly God-centered, on fire with love for God, and constantly God-conscious, seeming always to have his eyes on God. He seemed to see everything as flowing from God and leading back to God." (p. 126)If only I could do that a fraction of the time...how amazing that he was like that ALL the time!
Solanus played the violin very poorly but thought he might be of some entertainment to the other friars during their recreation time. One recalled: "As he began to play, one of the men went to the radio and kept turning up the volume. Without saying a word, Solanus left the room and went down before the Blessed Sacrament and continued his playing. Each Sunday night after that he would go with his violin and 'play before the Lord' for a half hour or so..." (p. 142-3)I especially like this story because I used to play my guitar for Jesus in the tabernacle when I was a volunteer at a monastery in Oregon. The Lord loves to hear us make a joyful noise unto Him...even if others don't!
People flocked to see Solanus and ask for his prayers and blessing, but the friar was ever humble. Said a brother priest: "I am convinced that he was not aware that others held him in such high esteem. ... He loved his God and he knew that God loved him. That was all that mattered." (p. 159)One of many of Solanus' character traits we must strive to emulate.
"I hope this finds you well, which means of course hopeful too. This latter is something that is sadly overlooked (these days) to the great detriment of spiritual progress as well as physical." (p. 174)Wow, hopefulness as an essential part of spiritual and physical wellness? I don't think about that (or pray for hope) often enough.
"Our Faith - Religion, is the science of our happy dependence upon God and our neighbor - of our living in his grace and dying in his love." (p. 228)That statement is packed with truth. And it's just how Solanus lived: dependent upon God and others, living in grace and dying in God's love. His last words were, "I give my soul to Jesus Christ." Beautiful!