Tag Archives: St Joseph Cafasso

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”?

Saint Joseph Cafasso: patron for prisoners and spiritual directors


St Joseph Cafasso.jpg

The Pope’s weekly general audience address today was
dedicated to Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860), a member of the “St Francis of
Assisi Institute,” a priest (ordained in 1833) who died 150 years ago. He is
most known as Saint John Bosco’s spiritual father (director) from 1835 to 1860.
Cafasso died in 1860; Pius XII canonized in him 1947. In 1948, Pope Pius XII named him the patron of Italian
prisons and, in 1950, proposed him “as a model for priests involved in
Confession and spiritual direction.” His uncle is Blessed Joseph Allamano. Saint Joseph Cafasso’s feast day is June 23.

I never heard of Saint Joseph Cafasso
until today, partly because I am not well attuned to the life of Saint John
Bosco of which he seems to be most connected. According to the Benedict, Joseph
Cafasso’s ministry helped to form “the true pastor with a rich interior life
and a profound zeal for pastoral care: faithful in prayer, committed to
preaching and catechesis, dedicated to the Sacraments of the Eucharist and
Confession, in keeping with the model incarnated by St. Charles Borromeo and
St. Francis of Sales, and promoted by the Council of Trent. St. Joseph Cafasso
sought to establish this model in the formation of young priests so that, in
their turn, they too could become formators to other priests, religious and lay
people, thus creating a unique and effective chain.” AND how could anyone NOT take Saint Joseph Cafasso as a paradigm for Christian life?

A theme that I am picking
up these days from some of the Pope’s addresses is the constant need to stay in
the “state of grace.” You might say, “no Kidding, Paul! Really?” Mock if you want, but there is an increasing distancing from God, especially staying close to God by means of staying in
a state of grace through the sacrament of confession. We know that the pure of heart are the ones who inherit the kingdom of God. One of the things we know
of Saint John Vianney is that he devoted himself to confessional. Cafasso, the
Pope said, “loved the Lord totally, he was animated by a well-rooted faith and
supported by profound and prolonged prayer, he showed sincere charity to
everyone. He knew moral theology but was equally well aware of the condition of
people’s hearts for which, like the good shepherd, he took responsibility.”

Benedict
XVI explained that that Saint John Bosco never copied his master. Not an
insignificant point: we need to take under consideration those who guide us but
we also need to assert our independence from a “master teacher” in order for
grace to flourish.  Otherwise we
merely parrot the other in an unthinking manner. The Pope said, “He
imitated him in the human and priestly virtues – defining him as a ‘model of
priestly life’ – but maintained his own attitudes and his own specific
vocation. … This is a precious lesson for those involved in the formation and
education of the young generations.”

What may be interesting for us to
know is that Saint Joseph Cafasso was renown for his “concern for the lowest, especially for prisoners
… who lived in inhuman and dehumanizing conditions.” Characteristic of Cafasso’s
work with prisoners is remembered today as he “often delivered great sermons
that came to involve almost the entire prison population, with the passage of
time he came to favor individual catechesis, made up of conversations and
personal meetings. While respecting the individual situation of each
individual, he tackled the great themes of Christian life, speaking of trust in
God, adherence to His will, the utility of prayer and the Sacraments, the
culmination of which is Confession, the meeting with God Who, for us, becomes
infinite mercy.”

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]yahoo.com.
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