Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph Calasanctius. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Joseph Calasanctius was born in Aragon in 1556 of a noble family, who gave him a very Christian education. His parents, Don Pedro Calasanza and Donna Maria Gastonia, gave Joseph, the youngest of five children, a good education at home and then at the school of Petralta. When only five years old, he led a troop of children through the streets to find the devil and slay him.
After his classical studies at Estadilla he took up philosophy and jurisprudence at Lerida and merited the degree of Doctor of Laws, and then with honours completed his theological course at Valencia and Alcalá de Henares. His mother and brother having died, Don Pedro wanted Joseph to marry and perpetuate the family. God interfered by sending a sickness in 1582 which soon brought Joseph to the brink of the grave. On his recovery he was ordained priest 17 Dec., 1583, by Hugo Ambrose de Moncada, Bishop of Urgel.
He heard a voice saying, Go to Rome, Joseph and had a vision of many children who were being taught by him and by a company of Angels. When he reached the Holy City, his heart was moved by the vice and ignorance of the children of the poor, and he saw clearly that ignorance was the mother of vice and misery. Sunday catechism lessons were insufficient to remedy the situation.
Joseph joined a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and gathered the boys and girls from the streets and brought them to school. The teachers, being poorly paid, refused to accept the additional labour without remuneration. The pastor of S. Dorotea, Anthony Brendani, offered him two rooms and promised assistance in teaching, and when two other priests promised similar help, Joseph, in November, 1597, opened the first public free school in Europe. Pope Clement VIII gave an annual contribution and many others shared in the good work, so that in a short time Joseph had about a thousand children under his charge. Sunday catechism lessons were insufficient to remedy the situation. When he could find no collaboration under the existing frameworks, the children’s need mastered his profound humility, and he undertook to found personally the Order of Clerks Regular of the Pious Schools, or the Piarists.
Enemies arose against Saint Joseph, however, from among his own subjects, thus imposing on the Founder the most sorrowful of all crosses, resembling that of the Lord Himself. They accused him to the Holy Office, and at the age of eighty-six he was led through the streets to prison. The Order was reduced to a simple Congregation under local episcopal authority and was not restored to its former privileges until after the Saint’s death. My work, he said, was done solely for the love of God. Saint Joseph is the first to have given gratuitous instruction to the children of the people. Religion can claim for its own the instruction of the poor, both by birthright and by right of conquest. The body of Saint Joseph Calasanctius reposes in the church of Saint Pantaleon in Rome. He was canonized by Clement XIII in 1767.
Image: The Last Communion of St Joseph Calasanz, by Goya, circa 1810. (3)
Research by REGINA Staff