Lisa Cusmano is a Regnum Christi member in Cincinnati. She shares the memories her husband’s family have of their dear friend, Fr Solanus Casey. On May 4th, 2017, Pope Francis announced that Fr. Solanus met the requirements necessary for beatification, becoming only the 2nd man born in the United States to receive this recognition.
Grandpa owned a produce business, holding most major contracts within the city of Detroit. He was known for his generosity. Living near the Capuchin monastery of St. Bonaventure, it’s no surprise that Grandpa Joseph and Grandma Anna Cusmano would have come to know Fr Solanus Casey. Especially during the years of the Great Depression and wartime, Grandpa supplied fresh fruits and vegetables for the Friar’s soup kitchen. Grandpa and Grandma had the pleasure of his company for dinner on multiple occasions.
My older cousin remembers those years. She says that Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed having Fr. Solanus over for dinner on several occasions, but that at the same time too, it wasn’t considered a “big deal”. They’d mostly make plans for the kitchen, eat simply themselves and share prayer. The children remember Grandma saying that Fr Solanus’ presence was soothing, peaceful and serene. He was quiet, humble and had a presence of serenity that was nearly overwhelming. “It must be like seeing the face of God,” is what Grandma would often say.
When Grandpa and Grandma’s only two sons went off to serve in World War II, Grandma made nearly daily trips to the monastery, praying for their safe return. Fr Solanus would pray with her for this intention, and she credits his intercession for their safety.
While they were deployed in Italy during WWII, my father-in-law and his brother brought Fr Solanus’ dedication to feeding the poor with them. Feeding the hungry like their father before them, the brothers regularly took their own rations to the orphanage located near their respective bases. The children would shout out “paisan” to Tony whenever they saw him coming (Paisan is like a friendly reference to brother). After the war ended, Tony would return to that orphanage to begin his own family, adopting his first two sons from the place where he’d fed the little ones as the spirit of Fr Solanus had inspired in his family in Detroit.
Grandma Anna’s devotion to Fr Solanus was so well known and respected by his brother friars that upon Fr Solanus death, she and only one other woman were given his habits to make holy cards. She cut tiny squares, placed them on cards, and hand-crocheted thousands of them. My husband, Cory remembers his Grandma sitting for hours on end, hands moving with needles and thread, making them faithfully one after the other.
With the announcement of Fr Solanus declaration as Blessed, I was so excited! I saw his name and the headline of Pope Francis’ announcement and I was just elated. I couldn’t text my husband fast enough to share the news! It’s amazing to know my family’s friend is another step closer to Saint, soon to be Blessed Solanus. I hope they announce the Beatification Mass date soon, so we can start planning our pilgrimage!
Traveling through our memories these few days, reading again and again the stories of miracles and spiritual experiences Fr Solanus brought to the faithful, my heart pauses most at the dinner table memories at Grandpa and Grandma Cusmano’s house.
Just two generations away, my family sat with a saint that the Church has recognized as exceptional. But he himself was simple. The life of being holy, being a saint, it’s really not complicated. We just have to be humbly faithful to what God asks us to do. God intends it for all of us! Our paths to holiness and sainthood are right in front of us, very likely right next to us at our dinner table.
Fr Solanus, pray for us!