St. Joseph Calasanz

Feast Day:
Roman Rite Calendar - 08/25

Patron Of: Colleges, Schools for the Poor, Schoolchildren, Schools, Students, Universities

Also known as
    Joseph Calasanctius
    Joseph of Our Lady
    Joseph Calsanza

    25 August
    formerly 27 August

    Youngest of five children born to Don Pedro Calasanz and Donna Maria Gastonia. His mother and a brother died while he was still in school. Studied at Estadilla, at the University of Lereda, at Valencia, and at Alcala de Henares. Obtained degrees in canon law and theology. His father wanted the boy to become a soldier, to marry, and to continue the family. However, a near fatal illness in 1582 caused him to seriously examine his life, and he realized a call to the religious life.

    Ordained on 17 December 1583. Parish priest at Albarracin. Secretary and confessor to his bishop, synodal examiner, and procurator. Revived religious zeal among the laity, discipline among the clergy in a section of the Pyrenees. Both his bishop and his father died in 1587.

    Vicar-general of Trempe, Spain. Following a vision, he gave away much of his inheritance, renounced most of the rest, and travelled to Rome in 1592. Worked in the household of Cardinal Ascanio Colonna as thelogical advisor for the cardinal, tutor to the cardinal's nephew. Worked with plague victims in 1595.

    Member of the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine. Tried to get poor children, many of them orphans and/or homeless, into school. The teachers, already poorly paid, refused to work with the new students without a raise; in November 1597, Joseph and two fellow priests opened a small, free school for poor children. Pope Clement VIII, and later Pope Paul V, contributed toward their work. He was soon supervising several teachers and hundreds of students.

    In 1602 they moved to larger quarters, and reorganized the teaching priests into a community. In 1612 they moved to the Torres palace to have even more room. In 1621 the community was recognized as a religious order called Le Sciole Pie (Religious Schools), also known as the Piarists, or Scolopii or Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum or Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools; Joseph acted as superior of the Order.

    The community encountered many obstacles - Joseph's friendship with the astronomer Galileo Galilei caused a stir with some Church officials. Some of the ruling class objected that to educate the poor would cause social unrest. Other Orders that worked with the poor were afraid they would be absorbed by the Piarists. But they group continued to have papal support, and continued to do good work.

    In his old age, Joseph suffered through seeing his Order torn apart. He was accused of incompetence by Father Mario Sozzi, who was chosen as new superior of the Order. Sozzi died in 1643, and was replaced by Father Cherubini; he pursued the same course as Sozzi, and nearly destroyed the Order. A papal commission charged with examining the Order acquitted Joseph of all accusations, and in 1645, returned him to superior of the Order, but internal dissent continued, and in 1646 Pope Innocent X dissolved the Order, placing the priests under control of their local bishops.

    The Piarists were reorganized in 1656, eight years after Joseph's death. They were restored as a religious order in 1669, and continue their good work today.

    11 September 1556 at Peralta, Barbastro, Aragon, Spain in his father's castle

    25 August 1648 at Rome, Italy of natural causes; buried at Saint Panteleone, Rome

Name Meaning
    whom the Lord adds (Joseph)

    18 August 1748 by Pope Benedict XIV

    16 July 1767 by Pope Clement XIII

    schools for the poor
    (areas 'assigned' by Pope Pius XII)

All information used with permission of the Patron Saint Index.


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