Upon returning from Detroit, Dcn. Dan Tracy expressed his gratitude for the opportunity and his own prayer for a continued increase in vocations for the diocese. (Submitted photo)
Catholic Herald Staff
“God is always the source and the object of glory when a miracle takes place.”
These were words preached by Dcn. Dan Tracy at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hudson the weekend of July 30-31. He referred to miraculous favors received through the intercession of an officially recognized “blessed” or “saint” of the Catholic Church.
“When we pray for a miracle through the intercession of a saint,” Dcn. Tracy said, “whoever that saint might be – it’s the work of God through the prayers of these individuals.”
The transitional deacon shared these reflections with a specific purpose in mind. July 30 is the feast day of Bl. Solanus Casey, and Tracy was making an invitation to parishioners to share their personal petitions for God’s miraculous action for Tracy to personally take on pilgrimage to the Capuchin’s gravesite in Detroit.
Bernard Francis Casey was born in November 1925 on a farm near Oak Grove Township, just 20 miles from Hudson. He received his first sacraments in the area, and the parish is very proud of their local connection to the saintly man.
“This parish loves Solanus Casey,” Dcn. Tracy affirmed, adding his own personal connection with the man who also spent years working in his hometown of Superior and attended the same seminary – Saint Francis de Sales in Milwaukee – where Tracy is in his last year of studies.
While the period of Casey’s life during which he was more famous and sought out by droves of Catholics was in Detroit, “30 of his 80 years were lived in Wisconsin,” Tracy noted, “more than any other state.
“Let’s be honest,” he added, smiling, “Solanus Casey is a Wisconsin treasure.” At this, low laughter could be heard in the congregation.
Tracy had started his homily retelling the story of Paula Medina Zarate of Chapo, Panama. In September 2012, the retired schoolteacher and catechist travelled to Detroit with a pilgrimage group led by two Capuchin friars. The group visited the Solanus Casey Center, where people come to pray, serve the poor and learn more the man and work of the beloved friar.
Zarate had never heard of him before visiting, but when the time came to visit Casey’s casket and leave petitions as is customary there, she wrote out 14 praying for family, friends and students.
As she added her white papers to the accumulating pile, one of the friars told her lunch was ready. Rising from her knees, Zarate heard God’s voice prompting her, “And you, what do you need?”
She did have something to ask for. Zarate had suffered for years with Ichthyosis vulgaris, a skin disease that causes dry, thick and scaly skin. Her scale-like skin would crack and bleed in heat. It was such a hindrance, the disease had forced her into early retirement.
Zarate returned to her knees, Tracy narrated. “She thought of the cross of Christ. She thought of the healing that came through the wounds of Christ. She asked God for her legs and for her arms to be healed.
“Suddenly,” he went on expressively, “Paula began to feel what she described as a current of heat passing through her entire body.”
After several minutes of this, concerned she was having a skin reaction, Zarate went to the bathroom. There, she saw that the scaly skin was falling from her arms but there was no blood. She collected some of the scales to show the priest as proof and tell him of her miraculous experience.
When Zarate returned to Panama and saw her dermatologist some weeks later, all the two of them could do was hug each other and weep. After 17 years of doctoring, the doctor could only conclude that the patient had miraculously been completely healed.
In 2017, Paula Medina Zarate’s miraculous healing was approved as part of the investigation stage of the Catholic Church’s canonization process for Solanus Casey allowing him to be beatified.
In November of that year, Zarate returned to Detroit, where more than 70,000 people gathered to witness and celebrate Solanus Casey’s elevation to “blessed.” Dcn. Tracy was there himself, along with Hudson pastor Fr. John Gerritts and others from St. Patrick’s Parish and across Wisconsin.
At the end of the Mass, Zarate was invited to carry a cross encasing a relic, a bone from the hand of newly beatified.
She later shared that it was one of the most powerful moments of her life, processing from one endzone of the football field at Ford Field stadium to the 50-yard line and up the steps of the makeshift altar to place the cross in front of a 20-foot painting of Solanus Casey.
Tracy said, “She, whose life was changed forever by a miracle received through this man’s prayers, was now walking amid tens of thousands, processing to the holiest place in that stadium – the altar… when Paula dies and enters heaven, she’ll see faithful friends, then she’ll see Fr. Solanus and then greatest saint of all, Mary. She will look ahead and see God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
She will behold the face of God, he iterated.
Quoting the bishops who participated in the First Vatican Council, Tracy gave a definition of miracles and what purpose they serve.
“God willed that the exterior proofs of his revelation – divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies – should be joined to the interior helps of the Holy Spirit as they manifestly display the omnipotence, the power, the infinite knowledge of God. They are the most certain signs of the Divine Revelation adapted to the intelligence of all men.”
Looking up from his notes, Tracy summarized, “Miracles are these certain signs of revelation,” explaining that it was through miracles and signs that the first disciples understood the divinity of Jesus.
“That said,” Tracy continued with a bold invitation, “Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for miracles.”
He indicated that paper and pencils were available in each pew as well as baskets on the altar where personal prayers and petitions for miracles could be placed at the end of Mass. Tracy invited anyone viewing the Mass via livestream to share their requests via the comment section and they would be included.
That was when Dcn. Tracy shared that we would be making a pilgrimage to the Solanus Casey Center to bring the petitions to Bl. Solanus’ tomb, where daily the friars read and lift up the intentions to God, after which they would be burned as is the daily practice.
Tracy went on to suggest four categories of miracles to pray for: physical healing, which could include from chronic or terminal illness and addiction; spiritual healing, turning away from serious sin and the separation from God and the church that comes from it; as well as traumas and emotional wounds resulting from the sin of others.
Conversion was presented as a third category. Tracy mentioned prayers for one’s enemies and for those who publicly express and act out as enemies of God and his church. Lastly, social reconciliation was offered as a topic of special petition including the end of war, military conflicts and true peace and dialogue among nations and within our own.
“Brothers and sisters, that’s why we pray for miracles,” Dcn. Tracy concluded the homily, “not so we can just have what we want. We pray for miracles so we can truly have what we need – to know God in this life, to know him in the life to come.”