By Eileen Connelly, OSU 

“Who are God’s servants but his minstrels, who inspire the hearts of people and stir them to spiritual joy!” 

This quote, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, is especially meaningful to Br. Al Mascia, OFM, a lifelong musician. It also serves as the opening to his one act, one-man show, “More Love than Skill: A Saint and his Fiddle,” which honors the life of Blessed Solanus Casey, OFM Cap., through song.  

Blessed Solanus spent much of his ministry in the Detroit area, where he was known as a healer and gifted spiritual counselor. He had a deep concern for the sick and celebrated special Masses for them. Although he passed away in 1957, his legacy has been preserved through the memories of those who are still living and knew him, and at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit.  


Telling Blessed Solanus’ story through song 

Br. Al began performing “More Love than Skill: A Saint and his Fiddle” in 2022, primarily at Detroit area churches and senior centers. Dozens of performances later, he likens his skill to Blessed Solanus’ – imperfect but done with great love.  

“Solanus wasn’t a great musician but took such great joy in making music and sharing it with others. It was part of his prayer life and healing ministry,” Br. Al explained.  

He doesn’t portray Blessed Solanus in the show, but tells the friar’s story through narration, reading letters, audio/video presentations and music, of course. Performances typically run from an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half with some audience participation. 

With every performance, Br. Al finds himself and the audience deeply inspired by Blessed Solanus’ faith-filled example.  

“He was someone who faced countless disappointments – suffering from physical ailments his whole life, family crisis, lack of encouragement from anyone, being denied ordination to the diocesan priesthood – yet he was an individual filled with joy and happiness and he shared that Gospel joy with anyone he could,” Br. Al said. “With all the division and conflict we’re experiencing in this country, in the Church and the world on a daily basis, it’s a blessing to have someone like Solanus who imparts a tremendous amount of joy to people and promises hope. That Solanus could navigate the waters of strife yet be ever joyful, ever hopeful, ever other-centered, is amazing.”  

“One of the most important elements of the musical is the presentation of Solanus’ full humanity, telling the story of his broken heart at not being able to marry the young woman he loved and his dream of becoming a priest not being fully fulfilled,” added Br. Al, noting that Blessed Solanus was ultimately ordained a simplex priest, meaning one without full faculties.  

At the close of every performance, audience members share their prayer intentions in a notebook, an exact replica of one used by Blessed Solanus, to request his favor. When the notebook isn’t on the road, it’s kept in the chapel at Duns Scotus Friary, where the resident friars incorporate the intentions into their morning and evening prayer.  

Upcoming performances of “More Love than Skill: A Saint and his Fiddle” are scheduled for April 21, 2-3:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Troy, Michigan, and April 29, 7-9 p.m., at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.  

A friar plays the piano on a stage. Two guitars and a violin are placed on stands next to him.

Br. Al shares his musical talents during a performance. 

A gift for music helps spread the Gospel message 

The idea for the musical originated with Br. Dennet Jung, OFM, in 2021, after one of Br. Al’s concerts.  

“Dennet said, ‘You should do something about Solanus Casey. He loved playing the violin and making music.’” Taking the suggestion to heart, Br. Al rented a violin for $25 from a nearby music school and started taking lessons.  

The musically inclined friar is no stranger how learning how to play a particular instrument.  

Br. Al, who lives at Duns Scotus Friary in Berkley, Michigan, has found a kindred spirit in Blessed Solanus through their shared love for music and is doing his part to honor the friar’s memory. 

A friar plays the violin

Br. Al Mascia, OFM, plays the violin during a performance of “More Love than Skill: A Saint and his Fiddle.”  

“I’ve been making music since I was kid,” Br. Al said. “I’m self-taught on the guitar and piano, along with some other instruments. I fell in love with playing the violin. It’s truly a very jealous instrument. With the guitar and the piano, you can skip a few days of practice, but the violin wants you every day.”  

Amid violin lessons and writing the show, Br. Al was granted access to the Capuchins’ archives and did extensive research on Blessed Solanus’ life. Br. Al came across correspondence from Blessed Solanus and notebook entries that detailed his suffering, in addition to discovering audio of him playing the violin and singing. Br. Al includes this at the beginning of show. Visitors to the Solanus Casey Center can view Blessed Solanus’ beloved fiddle and some of his other belongings.  

A flyer that reads:

A flyer promoting Br. Al’s one-man musical.

An opportunity for evangelization 

Br. Al is quick to credit to fellow friar Br. Michael Radomski, OFM, who “has been with me from the beginning” and constructs sets, assists with set up and breakdown for the musical, runs the laptop behind the scenes during each production to manage the video and slides, and even makes a cameo appearance. 

Br. Al would love to expand venues for musical beyond Michigan, but will need assistance and support to make that happen. Br. Michael’s last show will be in July so he can attend to other ministerial responsibilities.  

“It really is ideal to be able to do this with another friar,” Br. Al said. “I’d love to take the musical to other parts of the province, and hope to generate some interest from other brothers to join me in this. It really is an opportunity to share historical and current understanding of our Franciscan charism.”  

Br. Roger Lopez, OFM, Provincial Councilor, had the chance to attend a recent performance while visiting the Detroit area. He admits he knew little about the musical beforehand, only that it is a one-man show.  

“The first thing that impressed me was the crowd that was there. That was very heartening,” Br. Roger said. “I shared with Al afterward that I knew very little about Solanus Casey, but when the production was over, I walked away with an experience of the saint.”  

“I’m very proud that my brothers have created this and made their evangelization of Blessed Solanus part of their ministry,” he said. “One of the realities of our Franciscan life is the variety of ministries we’re involved in. There are numerous friars connected with the fine arts, and this is an impressive example of where the arts and Gospel evangelization coincide.” 

Br. Roger said a significant way other friars can support the musical is by connecting Br. Al with parishes, Secular Franciscan fraternities and other groups. “Who needs to hear about Solanus as a Franciscan? Ask that question,” he urged. “I’ve repeatedly studied how St. Francis was a performer. I found his spirit very much present in this musical project. It’s very gentle and unassuming in both its forms of catechesis and evangelization and I believe it really taps into a fundamental part of our roots as Franciscans.”  

For more information about the musical and Br. Al’s ministry, visit