May 5, 2016

Meet the "Doorkeeper"; The Man Who Shed his Ego *

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson



* An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on May 3, 2016

Worn down by the egotistical blustering of all the presidential candidates I decided to begin a search for someone sans EGO. I was sure it would be almost next to impossible. Then a bulb went off in my frazzled brain. 

I began a search of  the Official Catholic Directory of Saints. The search was easy. It is chock full of the “Egoless”. (N.B. Being egoless is not a birth defect). The saints managed to discover the secret to attaining a diminished to non-ego persona. They learned how to love God with all their minds, hearts and souls (something most of us fail miserably at doing).  They mastered the technique of diminished ego and advanced in their spirituality to the point where it led them to love others more than themselves. They reached a point where their own self was no longer a concern to them. Others came first.

These are the people gone before us who loved God unconditionally. Many times, like most of us, they failed miserably before they got it right. They just never quit trying to love God MORE every day. These folks ultimately emptied themselves for others before they died, many times giving their lives in doing so. This Directory of Saints is a treasure trove of Christian example for all of us, especially the young.

The “Doorkeeper” is an example of this. He was an uncomplicated man who never aspired to be anything more than a simple priest. His name was Bernard Francis Casey and his family and friends called him Barney. Barney, like so many other Catholic saints, shed his ego.

The "Doorkeeper", Father Solanus Casey
Barney was born in Oak Grove, Wisconsin back in 1870. He was the sixth of 16 kids of Irish immigrants. When Barney was a boy he contracted Diptheria and it left him with a permanently raspy sounding voice. (This would inhibit his speaking ability for the rest of his life). Young Barney felt the call to the priesthood but, at the age of 16, he hit a detour. He had to go to work to help the family.

Barney Casey always did whatever job he had (he worked as a lumberjack, a prison guard , a streetcar operator and even a hospital orderly) to the best of his ability wanting to serve his God in all things. When he was 21 he was finally able to enter St. Francis High School seminary in Milwaukee. He spent five years there before being able to move on and join the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Upon his acceptance he took the name of Solanus after St. Francis Solanus, a 17th century missionary.

Solanus Casey  was finally ordained a priest at the age of 33. He had to study extremely hard to reach that goal and when he was finally ordained he was given the title "Sacerdos Simplex" which means "simple priest". This meant he was not permitted to preach or to hear confessions. He never complained and took joy in having the honor and privilege of being able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Father Casey lived in Detroit and his main job at the monastery was that of the doorkeeper. Father Casey, wanting to do the absolute best at whatever God chose for him, became the finest doorkeeper that ever lived. He did this for well over 20 years.  Unexpectedly, he also became known for his service to the sick and for the advice and consultations he would have with visitors. People began attributing cures and other blessings to his interaction with them or others. He quickly became known as “The Doorekeeper”.

Father Casey was a man who opened and closed doors for people. He was a man who disregarded ego and was happy to serve God in the simplest of ways. He was a man who, because miracles have been attributed to his intercession, was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1995. This is the first step toward canonization as a saint. Father Solanus Casey died in 1957.

Father Solanus Casey is on the road to full sainthood. And all he did to begin his journey down that road was to humbly and happily open doors for people and talk to them if they wanted. A shining example of the beauty of humility and how powerful that quiet virtue can prove to be.

Solanus (Barney) Casey has re-charged me. It might be nice if all of today’s bloviating pundits could hear or read his story. It would also be a fine thing if all the young people across the entire country were also introduced to this God loving, humble man who managed to become famous by simply opening doors better than anyone else.


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