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                 The Reactionary Utopian
                    January 17, 2008

by Joe Sobran

     Of late, literally struggling to survive (your 
prayers and donations are most welcome), I have sought 
the consolations of the rosary, my family and friends, 
and a few books. Among these are Bernard Ruffin's 
excellent 1991 biography of St. Padre Pio, PADRE PIO: THE 
TRUE STORY, and a smaller book from 1968 about another 
great saint, Father Solanus Casey, THE PORTER OF 
ST. BONAVENTURE'S, by James Patrick Derum.

     Father Casey, like Padre Pio, was a Capuchin friar 
who has been credited with countless healing miracles. He 
was born and raised in Wisconsin, near the Minnesota 
border at a narrow part of the Mississippi River, in a 
large Irish Catholic family, and some friends of mine 
from that area, also devout Irish Catholics named Casey 
as it happens, believe they are related to him.

     Father Casey died in 1957 (Pio died in 1968) after 
spending most of his adult life in a monastery in my 
native Detroit. My aunt Pauline Sobran, God bless her 
sweet soul, became devoted to his memory late in her 
life. Renowned for his sweet temper, he was what in those 
days was called a simplex priest, of restricted 
faculties. That is, he was permitted to say mass but not 
to hear confessions. He was largely confined to menial 
tasks that most priests would find humiliating, though he 
never complained.

     Most of Father Casey's free time, as a result, was 
given to counseling troubled people, who flocked to him 
and basked in the remarkable warmth and sweet humor of 
his personality. Many an alcoholic, after a single 
interview with him, became intensely devout and never 
took another sip of liquor. Others recovered from such 
serious physical ailments as cancer, polio, diabetes, 
cataracts, concussions, and goiters, to name a few,
not to mention all sorts of anxieties and worries, the 
devil's devices for destroying our inner peace.

     I can relate a remarkable incident of my own about 
this holy man. Some years ago, around 1987, perhaps, I 
clipped an article about him from the weekly Catholic 
press. Then I lost it. With great frustration I searched 
for it for hours in vain; it was something I would never 
have knowingly thrown away, so I was baffled by its 
disappearance. But I finally gave up looking for it. 
Somehow I had managed to lose this item, worthless to 
anyone but me.

     I had nearly forgotten about it when I got home from 
Mass one dark Sunday evening in November. A strong, 
chilly wind was blowing as I got out of my car. I picked 
up a page of a newspaper the wind had whipped across the 
yard at my feet. It was the missing article about Father 

     Which of course proved nothing. I didn't need a 
logician to tell me it could have been mere chance that 
somehow carried it back to me, like a fish in some old 
tale that turns out to have swallowed a precious ring. If 
you want to reject the supernatural explanation, you can 
always posit coincidence or conspiracy. An explanation 
may be perfectly logical without being reasonable. Think 
of all the clever people who deny the resurrection of 
Jesus and uphold materialist theories of evolution.

     As usual, I digress. But I knew why that article had 
turned up as surely as if Father Casey, his blue Irish 
eyes twinkling, had personally handed it to me. And I 
think this is the way we usually experience a miracle in 
our own lives: as a kind of small, loving joke, "just 
between ourselves," that nobody else would get, as 
intimate as a kiss.

     This may be how God prefers to speak to us, not with 
spectacular public signs whose meaning nobody can miss or 
deny, but with an ambiguity that demands our faith. After 
all, Jesus himself, even after stunning the multitudes 
with his healing powers, often complained that their 
faith was so weak that they would not believe him without 
seeing marvels, as if he were just a magic act.

     He wanted them to accept him for his words, not his 
wonders. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," he said, 
"but my words shall not pass away." And of course those 
simple words are what we do remember most, the quiet but 
mighty words that, spoken, not written by him, have made 
this a different world for all time.

     In the same way, Father Casey didn't want praise as 
a worker of wonders. To God went all the credit for any 
cures that occurred after his prayers.


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