Saint Joseph of Calasanz was also known as Joseph Calasanctius. He was a Spanish Catholic priest and founder of the Pious Schools. He was born on September 11 1557 in Peralta de la Sal, Kingdom of Aragon, Spain and died on August 25 1648 at the age of 90 in Rome, Papal States. We celebrate his feast day on August 25 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Saint Joseph of Calasanz, Priest Biography|
|Date of Birth||September 11 1557|
|Place of Birth||Peralta de la Sal, Kingdom of Aragon, Spain|
|Profession||Catholic priest and founder of the Piarist Order|
|Place of Work||Spain and Rome|
|Date of Death||August 25 1648|
|Place of Death||Rome, Papal States|
|Feast Day||August 25|
|Beatification||By Pope Benedict XIV on August 7 1748 in Rome, Papal States|
|Canonization||By Pope Clement XIII on July 16 1767 in Rome, Papal States|
|Patron Saint of||Universal Patron of all Christian popular schools in the world|
Saint Joseph of Calasanz Life History
Saint Joseph of Calasanz was born in a family of eight children of Pedro de Calasanz y de Mur, the town mayor and a minor nobleman, and María Gastón y de Sala. He was well educated both at home and in good schools. In college, run by the friars of the Trinitarian Order, he went for classical studies and it is here that he felt the calling to become a priest at the age of 14.
He enrolled at the University of Lleida and studied law and philosophy and earned the degree of Doctor of Laws cum laude. He later studied theology at the University of Valencia and at Complutense University.
Saint Joseph of Calasanz’s brother and mother died around 1582 and he became gravely sick. Upon recovery, he was ordained as a priest on December 17 1583. As a priest, he became the confessor, procurator, theologian, and synodal examiner of Bishop de la Figuera in the Diocese of Albarracín. After the bishop was transferred to the Diocese of Lleida, he tagged along and here he became the secretary of the cathedral chapter and established a foundation that distributed food to the poor in Claverol, Spain.
At the age of 35, in 1592, Saint Joseph of Calasanz moved to Rome where he lived for the rest of his remaining 56 years. Here he was taken in by Cardinal Marco Antonio Colonna who made him his theologian and assigned to be the spiritual director of the staff.
In Rome, Calasanz found a good opportunity to continue with his works of charity. There were a lot of neglected and homeless children and orphans. After he joined the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, he gathered the boys from the streets and took them to school. Unfortunately, since the teachers were poorly paid, they refused to accept the boys until they were adequately remunerated.
Fortunately, Saint Joseph of Calasanz found help from Fr. Anthony Brendani of the Church of Santa Dorotea in Trastevere. The priest gave him two rooms near the parish sacristy and pledged more assistance in teaching. Luckily enough, two more priests offered to help, and on November 27 1597, Calasanz opened the first free public school in Europe.
On December 25 1598, River Tiber flooded and caused widespread devastation. Close to 2000 people lost their lives and many were left homeless. Saint Joseph of Calasanz joined the response team, a religious fraternity dedicated to helping the poor, and they managed to tame the suffering of the affected families.
Calasanz opened his school in Rome in 1600 and opened others after the enrolment demand grew exponentially. Many people contributed to his good work including Pope Clement VIII who gave an annual contribution. Within no time more than 1000 children enrolled in Calasanz’ schools and this forced him to rent a house at Sant’Andrea della Valle where, together with his assistants, he started a community life and founded the Order of the Pious Schools or Piarists. He laid out the regulations for teachers and for students and the fundamental principles of his educational philosophy.
Saint Joseph of Calasanz started the first public and free school in Frascati, Rome on September 15 1616. On March 6 1617, Pope Paul V approved the first religious institute dedicated to teaching, the Pauline Congregation of the Poor of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools.
Calasanz and his fourteen assistants became the first members of the new congregation when they received the Piarist habit on March 25 1617. They taught the children with love as opposed to fear and established more schools across Europe.
On November 18 1621, the congregation was raised to the Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools by Pope Gregory XV and Calasanz became the superior general. The Piarists profess vows of obedience poverty and chastity and dedicate their lives to educating the youth.
The Pious Schools enrolled everyone without discrimination and taught free of charge any child from any social class, race, or religion. In the history of education, Calasanz is an educator of the poor, offering education free of charge to all classes of society, without discrimination.
Saint Joseph of Calasanz in his education field found the importance of science and mathematics in shaping the future of education. He instructed his teachers to be firm and passionate when teaching these subjects. He became friends with Galileo Galilei and some of his Piarists became followers of Galileo.
Calasanz even defended Galileo on his theory that the earth moved around the sun. But those who opposed Galileo attacked Calasanz and other Piarists to the point of two Piarist priests including Father Stefano Cherubini, started to sabotage Calasanz and his mission.
Internal problems did not end in Calasanz’s order. His idea of educating free of charge all children did not go down well with the well-to-do in the society and his support of Galileo Galilei angered the Catholic Church hierarchy. Calasanz was arrested and interrogated for his association with Galileo Galilei and those two priests schemed to remove him from the leadership position of his own order but he forgave them altogether.
Father Stefano Cherubini was made the superior general of the order and Calasanz was pushed aside. Because Fr. Cherubini was a pedophile, Calasanz made public this fact and because of the bad image that the order acquired, Pope Innocent X suppressed the order in 1646. Eight years later, after Calasanz’s death, the name and reputation of the Pious Schools was cleared by Pope Alexander VII. The Piarist Order resurrected and in the following decades, they expanded and opened the Pious Schools in many more countries.
Saint Joseph of Calasanz Death
Saint Joseph of Calasanz died on August 25 1648 at 90 years of age with his life-long work having been wiped out. But he was greatly admired for his courage and holiness by the people of Rome, his fellow Piarists, his students and their families. He was buried in the Church of San Pantaleo.
Saint Joseph of Calasanz was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV on August 7 1748 in Rome, Papal States
Saint Joseph of Calasanz was canonized by Pope Clement XIII on July 16 1767 in Rome, Papal States
Saint Joseph of Calasanz is the Patron Saint of
Universal Patron of all Christian popular schools in the world.
Saint Joseph of Calasanz Feast Day
Because August 25 falls during summer vacation in many schools, the Piarist Order celebrates the feast day on November 27 as the day he opened his first, free public school in 1597.
Parishes Dedicated to Saint Joseph of Calasanz
- St Joseph Calasanctius in Jefferson, Ohio, United States
- North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada
- Church of San Jose de Calasanz in Lockney, Texas, United States
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