Joseph Cafasso was born at Castelnuovo d’Asti in the Piedmont, Italy, of peasant parents. He studied at the seminary at Turin, and was ordained in 1833. He continued his theological studies at the seminary and university at Turin and then at the Institute of St. Franics, and despite a deformed spine, became a brilliant lecturer in moral theology there. He was a popular teacher, actively opposed Jansenism, and fought state intrusion into Church affairs. He succeeded Luigi Guala as rector of the Institute in 1848 and made a deep impression on his young priest students with his holiness and insistence on discipline and high standards. He was a sought-after confessor and spiritual adviser, and ministered to prisoners, working to improve their terrible conditions. He met Don Bosco in 1827 and the two became close friends. It was through Joseph’s encouragement that Bosco decided his vocation was working with boys. Josephwas his adviser, worked closely with him in his foundations, and convinced others to fund and found religious institutes and charitable organizations. Joseph died on June 23 at Turin and was canonized in 1947. His feast day is June 23rd.
More on St. Joseph Cafasso
Joseph Cafasso (Italian: Giuseppe Cafasso; 15 January 1811 – 23 June 1860) was an Italian Catholic priest who was a significant social reformer in early 19th-century Turin. He was one of the so-called “Social Saints” of the city who emerged during that era.[a]Cafasso has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church.
Cafasso was born to a peasant family in the town of Castelnuovo d’Asti (now called Castelnuovo Don Bosco in honor of another sainted native of the town), in the region of Piedmont. He was the third of his parents’ four children. His sister Marianna was later to become the mother of theBlessed Joseph Allamano, founder of a missionary religious institute.
As a youth, Cafasso felt called to become a priest and entered the archdiocesan seminary in Turin to undertake his studies for this. During this period he came to know another young native of the town, John Bosco, whom he would later encourage and support in the work of caring for the street boys of the city, giving them training in various trades.[b] Cafasso was ordained to the priesthood in the cathedral of the city on 21 September 1833.
After some further theological studies at the University of Turin, the following year Cafasso came to know Luigi Guala, a co-founder of the Ecclesiastical College of St. Francis of Assisi. This college was dedicated to the higher education of the local clergy, who were still recovering from the destruction of the Catholic Church’s institutions under the Napoleonic invasion of the country a generation earlier. He would be connected to this institution for the rest of his life, advancing from student to lecturer to chaplain, and finally being named Guala’s successor as the college’s rector in 1848.
Cafasso was a noted lecturer in moral theology, drawing on the teachings of the French school of spirituality, with its leading figures such asPierre de Bérulle and St. Vincent de Paul. A major common element among these figures was the emphasis on the proper formation of the clergy. He worked especially against the spirit of Jansenism, with its strong focus with sin and damnation, which he had found to be highly influential at his seminary. He used the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Francis de Sales to moderate the rigorism of the education there.
Cafasso was also a noted confessor and spiritual director, who guided many men and women who would go on to found new religious institutions or congregations which would help the Catholic Church to meet the needs of both Italy and the whole world. Among them was John Bosco, the Servant of God Giulia Falletti di Barolo, who became noted for her advocacy of women prisoners, and the Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno. Additionally, Cafasso was known for his extensive ministry in the local prisons and served as the comforter of those condemned to the death penalty, coming to be called “The Priest of the Gallows”.
Cafasso died in 1860. When the college he had headed until his death moved to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in the center of the city in 1870, his remains were re-interred there.
Cafasso was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947. The following year, that same pope declared him to be the patron saint of all Italian prisons and prisoners. In 1950 Pope Pius further offered him as an example to all priests involved as confessors and spiritual directors.
A monument has been erected to his memory in Turin at the road crossing of Corso Regina Margherita, Corso Principe Eugenio and Corso Valdocco (called the Rondò della Forca, or the Gallows Roundabout).