Before Father Solanus was stationed in Detroit, he served as a porter at the friary in Yonkers. Father Solanus had a hard time passing his theology classes, which were taught in German, while he was the son of Irish immigrant farmers. Hence, he was ordained, but forbidden from preaching or hearing confessions, and assigned as a porter, a job usually reserved for the lay brothers, which Father accepted with perfect humility.
He was noted for his kindness to animals, who did not fear him. One time he calmed a swarm of angry bees by playing an Irish tune to them on his harmonica. He would let bees crawl on him, and was sometimes seen with a robin perched on his finger as he talked softly to it.
At that time, in the 1930s, Yonkers was not the urban place it is today, but was countryside. The friars had a farm and orchard, and beehives to aid in pollination. Once the bees swarmed. According to eyewitness Father Benedict Groeschel, from whom I heard this story, all the friars put on gloves and netting to try and get the bees back in the hive. “The swarm looked like a man in black in the tree”, said Fr Benedict. But the superior said “Call Solanus”.
Father Solanus approached the bees without gloves or netting and began talking softly to them. Then he said “Oh, they are swarming because there are two queens”, and he reached his bare hand into the swarm and drew out the second queen. “Poor little thing”, he said, as he tucked it into his sleeve.
“I was standing six feet away”, says Fr Benedict, “I saw the whole thing”.
While this is not necessarily a miracle- my grandfather worked his bees without netting, and I have allowed them to crawl on my hand- it certainly speaks to the Franciscan virtue, the kindness toward God’s smallest creatures, that Father Solanus possessed.