The Spanish priest St. Joseph Calasanz (1556-1648) devoted his life to the education of deprived children. Joseph was ordained in 1583 after being trained in canon law and theology. He went to Rome, where it seemed he had a promising Church career, but he was shocked by the ignorance and poor morals of the common people.
Being unable to interest any of the city’s religious orders and institutes in the education of poor children, Joseph undertook this task himself. In 1617 he and his assistants formed the Clerks Regular of the Religious Schools (the first priests to teach in elementary schools). Emphasizing love, not fear, Joseph wrote, “If from the first a child is instructed in religion and letters, it can be reasonably hoped that his life will be happy.”
However, Joseph himself encountered many difficulties, including his friendship with the controversial astronomer Galileo Galilei, investigations by papal commissioners, and the rebellion of one of his subordinates in the order. Also, there were those who felt the poor shouldn’t be educated, as this would only make them dissatisfied with their lot in life. Joseph was demoted at one point, and eventually his order was suppressed, but he — like the Old Testament figure Job — remained humble and obedient. St. Joseph Calasanz died in Rome in 1648, after which his order was finally restored as a religious community.
His feast day is celebrated on August 25, with St. Louis of France.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Zephyrinus (217), Pope, Martyr
Our Lady of Czestochowa , Patroness of Poland
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