Category Archives: Saints

St Joseph Cafasso

Joseph Cafasso, a native of Piedmont, Italy, was of humble origins. He was ordained priest in 1833 after studies in the Turin seminary and at the Institute of St. Franics.

Pope Benedict XVI referred to St Joseph Cafasso as one of the “social saints.” In 2010 he said,

“In addition, I would like to recall that on 1 November 1924, in approving the miracles for the canonization of St John Mary Vianney and publishing the Decree authorizing the beatification of Cafasso, Pius XI juxtaposed these two priestly figures with the following words: ‘Not without a special and beneficial disposition of Divine Goodness have we witnessed new stars rising on the horizon of the Catholic Church: the parish priest of Ars and the Venerable Servant of God, Joseph Cafasso. These two beautiful, beloved, providently timely figures must be presented today; one, the parish priest of Ars, as small and humble, poor and simple as he was glorious; and the other, a beautiful, great, complex and rich figure of a priest, the educator and formation teacher of priests, Venerable Joseph Cafasso.'”

Father Joseph had a deformed spine which did not hinder his brilliance in moral theology. Two things made him notable of his time: he actively opposed the heresy of Jansenism, and he fought state intrusion into Church affairs. Hence his popularity in teaching.

While Father Joseph had administrative duties his best and singularly most important work was his personal connection he had with young priest-students, his renown holiness and insistence on discipline and high standards; his compassion and guidance as confessor and spiritual adviser, and his ministry to prisoners. One of the interesting things Father Joseph recommended to his seminary students was their joining the Secular Franciscan Order very likely because it would give a structure to their spiritual and pastoral life. All this gives rise to Benedict XVI saying that Cafasso had “a school of priestly life and holiness.”

Ahead of his time Father Joseph preached daily Communion and regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Saints beget saints. Joseph met John Bosco in 1827 and the two became good friends. Bosco credits Joseph’s encouragement that led to the latter’s work with boys. The religious institute founded by Bosco was advocated by Joseph who asked benefactors to support. Father Joseph was canonized in 1947.

It was Pope Pius XII who declared St Joseph Cafasso the Patron of Italian prisons on 9 April 1948, and,  held him up as a model to priests engaged in Confession and in spiritual direction (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Menti Nostrae, on 23 September 1950).

May St Joseph Cafasso teach us to be clear in our doctrine, engaged in the lives of the needy, and firm in our love of the Lord through eucharistic devotion. Can we today, imitate what was said of St Joseph’s secret: to be a person of God; to do in small daily actions “what can result in the greater glory of God and the advantage of souls”?

St Norbert and the spider

“Sometime later he was wearing himself out by severe fasting and abstinence, pushing himself day and night with vigils and prayer. While he was celebrating Mass as customary in a certain crypt, a spider fell into the already consecrated chalice.[6-2] When the priest saw it he was shocked. Life and death hovered before his eyes. The spider was large. What should the man do whose faith[6-3] was now deeply rooted in the Lord? Lest the sacrifice suffer any loss he chose rather to undergo the danger and consumed whatever was in the chalice.

When the sacrifice was finished he expected to die immediately. While he remained at his place before the altar he commended his awaited end to the Lord in prayer. When he was disturbed by an itching in his nose he scratched it and suddenly he sneezed expelling the whole spider. Once again God did not want the death[6-4] but the faith of his priest who he knew would be useful to him.”

-Life of Norbert B (Vita Norberti B)

St Boniface preaches God’s plan

“Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan.” -St. Boniface

The saint’s exhortation is key here for the serious Christian. But I have to wonder how often we hear about God’s plan preached by the clergy (bishops and priests) and the witness of our lives. Is this whole plan preached by the catechists and lay leaders in our parish, schools, hospitals and soup kitchens? Do we actually believe there is a divine plan to be preached, lived and taught? Do we believe in Divine Providence and it’s revelation in history?

If so, then let’s live as though we mean it. Seek the face of God!

St George

St George, pray for us.

St Benedict Joseph Labre

Today’s saint, Saint Benedict-Joseph Labre, was a homeless street person. His home, it is reported, used to be in a hole in the Colosseum. Probably a rarity, other street persons gave testimony for Labre’s canonization process.

For many, the Labre is a great witness to the Gospel and therefore frequently visit the Church near the Colosseum and the Angelicum, Santa Maria ai Monti, where he is entombed.

Saint Benedict-Joseph thought his vocation was to the contemplative life and therefore tried to join the Trappists, the Common Observance Cistercians, and the Carthusians; but was denied profession of vows. In many ways his cloister was the world. Wandering Europe, especially Rome, in complete poverty, spending his days in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He begged in the streets, and if he was given more than he needed for the day, he would give the remainder to a person he considered more in need. Benedict-Joseph healed some of his fellow homeless, and was reported to have multiplied bread for them; he was also the spiritual director for many. Given to religious ecstacies when contemplating the crown of thorns; reputed to float, soar, and bilocate when in these swoons. He died in a hospice, exhausted from his life of austerity.

Father Marconi, Labre’s confessor and biographer, describes 136 miraculous cures attributed to him within three months of his death.

May Saint Benedict-Joseph Labre show us the face of Christ today.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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