friar and shadow of face

Br. Al Mascia, OFM, in the shadow of Blessed Solanus Casey, OFM, Cap.  Image by Susan McConnell.

The story of Blessed Solanus Casey set to music

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that morning. As usual, we were all gathered around the breakfast table last August, when Dennet Jung, the senior friar of our house, asked me if I’d ever thought about “doing anything musically about Blessed Solanus Casey.”

“Hmm,” I thought to myself. “What an interesting question. I wonder where that’s coming from?”


Blessed Solanus Casey, OFM, Cap.

Now, for anyone not from Detroit, Solanus Casey was a Capuchin friar simplex priest who, due to having limited priestly faculties, was relegated to being the friary porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in downtown Detroit, the motherhouse of the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph. At the risk of oversimplification, for many years–until his death in 1957–he engaged very personally and compassionately with anyone coming to the friars in any state of distress: illnesses, addictions, joblessness, poverty or family conflicts. These interactions often resulted in seemingly miraculous healings and resolutions. His popularity skyrocketed, gaining him the reputation as “The Doorkeeper.” And, not long after his death, the wheels were set into motion to have him considered a candidate for canonization. His cause was markedly advanced when, on Nov. 18, 2017, to a capacity crowd at Ford Field, he was officially declared a Blessed.

As with any nascent consideration, I initially hadn’t a clue what “doing anything musically about Solanus Casey” would look like. But this I did know: Solanus was a mediocre violin player with a virtuosic love of music; someone who relished singing, notwithstanding having a voice adversely affected by a childhood illness. He was someone who never let anyone, or anything, get in the way of fulfilling either of these passions of his.

Although I’d never picked up a violin in my entire life, I just knew that if anything were to come of Dennet’s question, I would have to learn how to play this thing, at least somewhat passably. Less than a mile from our house is a music school that rents instruments to its students, including violins. For $25 a month, I rented one, picked an instructor and began taking lessons.

“I’ll know right away,” I thought to myself, “whether this is destined to go anywhere.”

Soon enough I had my answer. I had fallen in love. No wonder Solanus, despite his commitment to material poverty, always kept his violin as a possession. No wonder, regardless of the often less than encouraging responses he received to his playing, he never put it away or passed up any opportunity to perform. In my case, the words of St. Augustine come to mind: “Late have I loved thee.”

To their credit, the friars I live with have patiently and quite charitably contended with my practicing at home. Keep in mind, the violin was designed to project. They have also allowed me to “spread out” the various staging paraphernalia throughout the house for, by now, this undertaking had become a full-fledged one friar, one act musical called “More Love than Skill: A Saint and His Fiddle.”

Facilitating all of this, as well, has been the indispensable access I’ve been granted by the Capuchins to their archives, where I’ve been able to mine through related materials not available through any other means. The more I learned about this man, the further study I engaged in, the more convinced I’ve become not only of his sanctity, but of how the example of his life offers us a means of addressing the many challenges and exigencies facing our world today.

Thanks, once again, to the initiative of Dennet Jung, “More Love than Skill” is scheduled to premiere on March 30 at the Maryville Retreat Center in Holly, Michigan. Although not contractually confirmed, it seems he’s become both agent and manager.

The American writer Joan Didion once said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” In the case of Blessed Solanus Casey, by sharing his story, we may all learn how to live better.


2 friars

To download a PDF of the flyer, click the image.

More Love than Skill: a Saint and His Fiddle
The story of Blessed Solanus Casey set to music

Wednesday, March 30
Mass with Fr. Dennet Jung, OFM, begins at 5:30 p.m.
Dinner at 6:00 p.m.
Concert is approximately an hour and begins at 6:45 p.m.
$25 (includes dinner); freewill offering for concert
Register online:
NOTE: If you prefer not to register with a credit card, select “Bill me later” or contact Sr. Mary Bernadette Kapfer at 248-634-5566 or

Maryville Retreat Center
18307 Taylor Lake Road
Holly, Michigan 48442