Steven and I traveled to Detroit to visit Father Casey’s tomb, but we had no idea what to expect, much less which entrance to take into the building that encompassed the city block across the street from the gated cemetery.
Taking photos in the dimly lit St. Bonaventure Church, I happened to look up and there he was. St. Joseph! I’d been so distracted emotionally that I’d failed to notice him sooner.
What surprises do you have in store for us today? I wondered with shivery excitement.
I smiled at the growing number of Joseph-related memories past, present, and future, including our church in Port Aransas, the Capuchin Province managing the Solanus Casey Center and its intricately connected buildings, and the Indian school we’d be visiting two days later in Chamberlain, South Dakota. I felt so blessed, so happy to sense St. Joseph so near.
Shortly after Steven returned, I left for confession. And, as he waited for me, a cordial young man offered him a guided tour.
“When my wife finishes, we’ll look for you,” Steven said gratefully. He was quite surprised that anyone would care to make visitors feel so welcome.
After a little while, I rejoined Steven. Then, as he told me about the invitation to tour the center, the young man returned all on his own.
And, wouldn’t you know it? His name was Joseph.
For two-and-a-half hours we relished every moment of our genuinely heartfelt, specially customized “pilgrimage” with Joseph Taylor, Capuchin aspirant. We talked, laughed, and related to each other as friends sharing priceless stories.
I wanted to remember everything he told us because I wanted to write about our time at the Center.
“May I record your talk?”
Joseph laughed. No one had asked him that before.
So this is an excerpt from the edited version.
“Let’s go outside,” Joseph said as he led us through the glass door.
“Oh, my goodness. It’s beautiful out here!” I gushed.
“This is where a tour usually starts,” Joseph continued. “This is called the Creation Garden for a few reasons. Before I explain, let me say that the Center itself focuses on three things: the Capuchins, which is the Order that Solanus Casey belonged to; Christ, of course, Jesus Christ; and Solanus Casey. So you have three C’s.”
“Here in the Creation Garden the idea is that St. Francis was totally different from a lot of priests. He believed that you should love not only God with your whole heart, but also God’s creations.
“A lot of Franciscan monasteries have a place like this where you can blend in the Creation, God’s creation, with everything that you’re doing. That’s the whole idea.
“St. Francis wrote The Canticle of the Sun. As you can see, the little frame beside each sculpture displays part of the actual poem. St. Francis mentions the sun, so we have a sundial. He mentions the moon, so there are the four phases of the moon. Brother Sun, Sister Moon. He wrote about fire, so you have Brother Fire there and Brother Wind, the chimes. Over here is Sister Mother Earth, and these are Sister Bodily Death and Sister Water.”
“St. Francis wanted to show the various cultures that the Franciscans work with, so each was asked to contribute something different. For instance, African-Americans from Nigeria designed the wind chimes.
“Now, this obelisk represents water and bears scriptures from the Koran. When people visit the garden, they look at the sculpture and get a bit confused.
“‘This is a Catholic place. What’s the Koran, and how does it fit in?’ they wonder.
“The idea is to show that Abraham is the father of the three different religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Similarly, water is a unifier that brings to mind the four rivers mentioned in the Old Testament.”
Then, the Lord God planted a garden in Eden…. A river rises in Eden to water the garden; beyond there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is the Pishon; it is the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The name of the second river is the Gihon; it is the one that winds all through the land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it is the one that flows east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates (Genesis 2:8, 10-11, 13-14).
“You probably know all this already about St. Francis, but I’m going to talk about it a little bit. Is that okay?
“Oh, I would love to hear whatever you have to say, Joseph,” I replied.
“Okay, so here’s St. Francis, a poor rich kid. He does pretty much what he wants to do. As he gets older, his parents expect more from him. One of the greatest expectations is for him to be a knight; so, when he comes of age, his parents insist that he join the crusades. Again, he comes from this wealthy family; so, of course, a lot of what he has is better than what other soldiers have.
“The family has a big parade and a big party for Francis before he goes off to battle. Only he doesn’t do well on the field. Francis gets beaten up and becomes a prisoner of war. His father hears about it and goes off to rescue his son.
“In order to get his son, he has to pay not only for his son’s release, but also for all the other prisoners. He purchases the prisoners’ freedom. Then he brings Francis back and leaves him on the outskirts of town. The father wants Francis to build character, so he can return to war.
“This is the first time Francis has seen the dark side of the world, and he doesn’t like it. He comes from a rich family, so he’s pretty much gotten everything he’s wanted. Being a loving man, Francis doesn’t want to fight. Instead, he wants to show the Muslims the true presence of Christ.
“Francis refuses to obey his father, so he’s disowned. Francis moves out into the wilderness and starts a life of his own.”
“Of course, the story continues. St. Francis and his band of brothers go in search of the Islamists to tell them about the true Christ. When he reaches the leader of the sect, Francis says that war is not of Christ.
“‘We should be brothers and keep the peace.’
“The Islamists, in turn, tell Francis and his band of brothers, ‘Look, we were told to kill you. That’s our job, to kill Christians. We should kill you; but, since you so courageously sought us out to share your religious beliefs, we’ll give you safe passage in any Muslim country you choose to travel.’
“For this reason, Sister Water honors the Muslims. In return for the privilege of passage, Francis honors Muslims with passages from the Koran on the sculpture in his Creation Garden.
“And, even today, Franciscan brothers travel within the various Muslim countries without difficulty.”
Examining the water sculpture, I wondered aloud, “Each one of the sides is different, right? Or it continues? Is it a sentence?”
“I’m not sure,” Joseph responded.
In 1219, as the Fifth Crusade was being fought, Francis crossed enemy lines to gain an audience with Malik al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt. The two talked of war and peace and faith and when Francis returned home, he proposed that his Order of the Friars Minor live peaceably among the followers of Islam— a revolutionary call at a moment when Christendom pinned its hopes for converting Muslims on the battlefield (Moses, 2009).
“Sooo… What got you interested in doing this?” I asked.
“For the most part, I don’t want to stray too far from here,” Joseph began.
“My mother was the first to become a Catholic in her family, and she took pretty much all her brothers and sisters to St. Rose when she was in her teens. The church is a mile down the road.
“St. Rose was in the process of being closed; so Father Dave, a Capuchin priest, was asked to take over. Then, when St. Rose closed, we followed Father Dave to his home parish at St. Charles, which had lots of Capuchins.
“As we got to know the Capuchins, we learned not only about St. Charles, but also about St. Bonaventure and a few other churches. So that’s when the friendship started.”
Joseph then told us how he and his siblings had come to know Father Casey.
“My mom, who’s very, very big on saints, is a very spiritual person. She first heard the story of Solanus Casey at a point when she couldn’t have kids. She would come to Father Casey’s tomb, his casket, quite often; so that was part of it. Then my father became ill after he retired from the police force. He used a cane, so a few of his buddies would bring him to the healing services every Wednesday. He would pray all the time. After that, my sister, the girl over at the front desk, was asked to come work; so she applied for a job. When she started working, that brought us, the younger crowd, to the Center more. Then, as the Center became more popular and needed personnel to work weekends, I was asked to be a tour guide.”
“And you’ve been here doing this how long?”
“I’ve been here since January, but I’ve been coming to the Center since it opened in 2002. This is the first time I’ve been totally active at the Center, though. During the week, I teach math to seventh-graders in a predominantly Hispanic school; so I do this on weekends.”
“And your dad? How is he doing?”
“He passed away in 2008. He suffered from a number of illnesses. He had high blood pressure and diabetes and eventually went blind. It was sad because he’d been a cop for thirty-one years, and he had all these plans to take a cruise and do a lot of traveling; but his health immediately declined as soon as he retired. A lot of his buddies, as soon as they retired, got very, very ill. Quite a few passed away.
“My dad was very active here at the Solanus Casey Center. Every Wednesday he would come to the healing services. He’s in a video on Solanus Casey. My mom would watch the video on EWTN, so we’d see our father on TV.”
“Oh, my goodness!” I enthused, totally caught up in the story. “So he’s alive forever!”
“The video is pretty awesome!” Joseph chuckled, reveling at the thought.
We stood there quietly beaming for a few moments until I remembered that Joseph hadn’t yet told us about the last sculpture.
“Oh, were you were going to explain one last thing?” I asked.
Life and death
“Yes. This is Sister Bodily Death.” Joseph continued. “St. Francis wrote about life; so a lot of people ask, ‘Where does death fit in?’
“Francis believed that through death you meet Christ. That’s why he mentioned death last in his poem. What’s unique is that this piece of burnt tree is from Iowa, not too far from where Solanus Casey and his family lived. I believe it’s four-thousand years old, and this limestone is almost a million years old. The wood’s kind of pointing toward the center, since that’s where the journey actually starts. When I read about death in the poem, I couldn’t grasp it; but now I understand.”
“Wow! See? I didn’t know any of that!” I said to Joseph as we made our way back into the building. “It means a lot to hear your stories.”
As Joseph stepped behind the welcome desk, he introduced his beloved sister with pride.
Like her brother, Jessica was all smiles and just as sweet. She was also glad, though in no hurry, to break for lunch as Joseph had anticipated.
“We’ll be back another time!” I chirped as we wistfully said our goodbyes.
“Just keep me in your prayers,” Joseph added, his Cheshire cat grin piquing our curiosity.
“Oh? Something special coming up?” Steven teased.
“Yesterday morning I submitted my application to the Capuchins, so I’m hoping they’ll accept me.”
“Joseph, that’s great news!” I said excitedly.
“Of course, you’ll be accepted!” Steven asserted.
“We’ll definitely keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. I’ll write when we get back to Texas. Thanks so much for being here for us today!”
God’s master plan
Knowing that Steven and I were on an emotional roller coaster ride, God, in his infinite wisdom, surrounded us with wonderful people, including Wilson (in the striped sweater) and his Uncle Jeff whom we met in church, and gifted us with his goodness and mercy.
Through the expeditious intercessions of both Father Casey and St. Joseph, we were mentally refreshed and spiritually uplifted, too. Yet, Joseph was the charm.
The stories of Father Casey, St. Francis, and Joseph’s family helped us look beyond ourselves to acknowledge God’s gifts, his amazing creations, and appreciate all we have together.
Our visit to Father Casey’s tomb that day was such an important chapter in our book of life that we give thanks and praise not only for God’s master plan for us, but also for Joseph’s acceptance into the Capuchin Order and the journey he’s just begun.
Canticle of the sun
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord, Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air and clouds and storms and all the weather through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful and humble and precious and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you, through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace; for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord and give thanks and serve him with great humility.
Prayer leaflets are from Father Primo at Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.
December 18, 2012
Thank you, Jesus, for the witness of St. Joseph. By your Spirit, make me as faithful and trusting as he was! (the Word among us, Advent 2012, p. 44).
January 2, 2014
As always, we’re delighted to no end anytime we hear about Joseph through Mary Comfort at the Solanus Casey Guild; his sister, Jessica; and/or from Joseph himself. He and his family, along with the Capuchins and their associates at the Solanus Casey Center, are in our thoughts and prayers daily. (Father Ugo Sartorio, OFM-Conv at
St. Anthony’s Basilica in Padua is praying for Joseph, too.)
We’re so very proud of Joseph that we get misty-eyed with every bit of news about him. The photo on the left was received August 2, 2013; the one on the right, January 2, 2014.
Merry Christmas. I haven’t forgotten about you guys. They keep us really busy here. Thanks for your support. Br. Joseph
P.S. Hey, Steve!!
Thank you for heeding the call of service, Brother Joseph!
January 19, 2014
Lord, show me where my obedience falls short of your plans for me. Teach me to trust in you completely (the Word among us, January 2014, p. 40).
January 26, 2014
“Spiritual joy arises from purity of the heart and perseverance in prayer” (St. Francis of Assisi).
May 1, 2014
In response to Father Larry’s reflection today, Steven wrote the following:
Deli and I were there at the Center April 9 and 10 for the Wednesday healing service and Thursday Day of Reflection. As always, we were captured emotionally and spiritually by the serenity that abides in the Center. We also met some of the most beautiful people there, including Sidney, a young man physically challenged by an auto accident when he was a baby, but whose outlook is positive and faith-based. It was particularly nice to finally meet Mary Comfort in person— a perfect name for someone in her position, as I am sure you are aware. She has always been so kind and helpful in providing Deli with relic badges for us to provide to others who need intercession and spiritual uplift.
Thank you for your description of the events in St. Peter’s Square last Saturday. Your tale brought the event to life for me. I had the opportunity to be present at a General Audience with John Paul II in 2001— I still have my invitation, now framed and hung in our home. I wear a replica of the crucifix fixed atop his ferula (that I obtained at the Vatican), and it now reminds me that I have been privileged to hear a Saint speak. Truly you are blessed to have shaken hands with His Holiness and conversed directly with him.
May God bless you and the staff at the Center; all of the Friars and Brothers; Capuchins throughout the world, both ordained and seminarian (especially Joseph Taylor); and the faithful who ask, seek, and knock.
Solanus Casey Guild life member
May 24, 2014
This photo is from the letter received from Brother John Celichowski with the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order. (Brother Joseph is on the right.)
May 29, 2014
Oh, my gosh! Great news!!!
Father Larry’s reflection, “New Capuchin,” arrived this morning.
Fr. Larry gave classes recently to the 21 Capuchin Novices from the US at the Novitiate in California. Among them is Br. Joseph Taylor who, for several months, worked as our weekend assistant at the Solanus Casey Center. His sister Jessica is one of our receptionists. Brother Joseph will finish his Novitiate and make his first vows as a Capuchin in July. Keep him and all the Novices in your prayers as well as praying for more Capuchin Vocations!
Joseph, we’re so over-the-moon happy for you and your family!
June 1, 2014
Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt (St. Francis of Assisi).
October 4, 2014
Every day Jesus humbles himself just as he did when he came from his heavenly throne into the Virgin’s womb; every day he comes to us and lets us see him in abjection when he descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar (St. Francis of Assisi).
Let us love God and adore him with pure heart and mind (St. Francis of Assisi).
May 8, 2015
“By the anxieties and worries of this life Satan tries to dull man’s heart and make a dwelling for himself there” (St. Francis of Assisi).
June 23, 2015
“All a person’s holiness, perfection, and profit lies in doing God’s will perfectly”
(St. Joseph Cafasso).
September 27, 2015
“A single act of resignation to the divine will in what it ordains contrary to our desires is of more value than a hundred thousand successes conformable to our will and taste” (St. Vincent de Paul).
March 8, 2016
“Have charity first towards our own souls, cleansing them by confession and penance; then charity towards our neighbors and our brethren, wishing them that which we desire ourselves” (St. John of God).
Links of interest… Canticle of the Sun: about / prayer / video (YouTube)… Capuchin Franciscans: blog / ministries / novices (men in formation / new) / website / weekly re:cap (Joseph: #927, 9.7.12)… Celebration of Divine Mercy & the grace of holiness… Father Abraham: about / family / lyrics / music & craft / our father / song (YouTube; alternate)… Franciscan Mission Associates: contact / devotional saints / light a candle / prayer requests / quarterly newsletter / saint & prayer of the month / who we are… Franciscan saints calendar (more)… Garden of Creation (videos)… How I made friends with St. Joseph… Saint & the Sultan: book / fifth crusade forgotten incident / historical resource / reflection (blog) / what can be learned… Solanus Casey Center: creation garden (YouTube) / guild / home / photo gallery / shrine / sister water / virtual tour… St. Francis of Assisi: 10+ ideas for kids / about / & answering God’s call / creation & original innocence / ecology & animals / getting to know the real / national shrine / what we can learn / who was / without gloss… St. Joseph: helps (blog) / in Franciscan theology… the Word among us…
WP posts… Budding relationships… Call of service… Capuchin church stations… Father’s guided tour… Father now retired… Holy relics… Memory lane… Mercy and justice… Morning exchanges… Promise of hope… Quiet prayer time… San Giuseppe… Si quaeris miracula… Solano, Solanus, Solani… St. Bonaventure Church… St. Felix… St. Joseph’s chapel… Today’s Beatitudes
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