St. Joseph Cafasso
Joseph Cafasso was born in 1811, in northern Italy, near the city of Turin. Four years later, in 1815, one of his most famous students was born in the same town, St. John Bosco. We celebrate his feast on January 31. Joseph had loving parents who were willing to sacrifice for his education. He went to Turin to study to become a priest.
Joseph met John Bosco in 1827 when Bosco was twelve. He talked to Seminarian Cafasso at the church and ran all the way home. "Mom, Mom," John called, "I met him, I met him!" "Who?" his mother asked. "Joseph Cafasso, mother. He's a saint, I tell you." Mrs. Bosco smiled and nodded gently. In 1833, Joseph was ordained a priest. He began his priestly work and went to an excellent school of theology for priests. When Father Cafasso graduated, he became a theology professor. He taught many young priests over the years. They could tell that he really loved them.
Father Cafasso became known as the priest who believed in the gentle and loving mercy of God. Because he was so kind himself, he gave people courage and hope. He guided many priests, religious and lay people. He helped John Bosco begin his great priestly ministry with boys. He also guided Father Bosco in starting his religious order known as the Salesians. Father Cafasso directed other founders, too.
There were many social needs in Father Cafasso's time. One of the most urgent was the prison system. Prison conditions were disgusting. But what most moved Father Cafasso was the custom of hanging in public prisoners sentenced to death. Father Cafasso went to them and heard their confessions. He stayed with them, telling them of God's love and mercy until they died. He helped over sixty convicted men. All repented and died in the peace of Jesus. Father Cafasso called them his "hanged saints."
Father Cafasso also became the pastor of St. Francis Church in 1848. No one could ever measure his great influence on people and works in the Church. Father Cafasso died on June 23, 1860. His devoted friend, St. John Bosco, preached the homily at his funeral. Pope Pius XII proclaimed him a saint in 1947.
The life of this saint was marked by kindness and understanding of the people of his time. How do I treat my brothers and sisters?