Uncle Eddy's E-mails -- August 25
Saint Joseph Calasanz,
Priest and Founder of the Piarist Fathers
(entered heaven this day in 1648)
I shall, without doubt, be keeping you in my prayers. You certainly have a lot cut out for you this year, not the least of which is full responsibility for the Catholic Student Union, now that the chaplaincy has been dissolved. Your plan for the year looks good – concrete goals, realistic and well-aimed activities to achieve them, and a good team of coworkers to pull everything together. I have only one worry: are you ready for unpleasant surprises? Things happen that you simply can't plan for – especially when you're trying to do work that yields eternal results. You're going to run into obstacles, and they may come from the least-suspected sources. Don't let it disrupt you or derail you; just keep going, like today's saint.
Joseph was born into a good Catholic family in northeastern Spain, had a normal upper class childhood, and excelled in his studies at the University of Lereda, earning degrees in philosophy, theology and canon law. His father was counting on him pursuing a career in the military, but when he was 26 he had a close shave with death that changed his priorities; he decided to work directly for an everlasting Kingdom, and took orders for the priesthood. He served as a parish priest, advisor and confessors to bishops, and vicar general (diocese of Trempe), and through it all proved a tireless preacher and reformer, inspiring laity and clergy alike to seek Christ above all things.
When he was 36 (after the death of his father – his mother had died when he was growing up – and his bishop) he liquidated his inheritance and gave it to the poor, then moved to Rome (he felt God was calling him to relocated, in spite of all his success in Spain). There he served as a theological advisor to Cardinal Colonna and tutor to the Cardinal's family, and joined the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, dedicated to instructing youth in the faith. In his free time he visited the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned – spreading hope and health wherever he went, such was the intensity of his love.
In Rome he quickly identified the greatest need as being the education of the swarms of poor children who couldn't afford or fit in the existing schools. He unsuccessfully tried to convince the teachers to make room for them, and so decided to start teaching them himself, convincing some other zealous priests to join his efforts. His success in this endeavor was also manifest, and soon he received papal approval to start a religious order dedicated to this work, later known as the Piarists.
And that's when the trouble started. First he encountered opposition from outside (other religious orders resented the "competition", noblemen feared that an educated underclass would cause social unrest, clerics resented Joseph's friendship with Galileo), then it sprung up within the order. Some of the priests who had joined didn’t agree with his methods, and accused him of all kind abuses and negligence, to the point that he was removed from his position of leadership. Two successive General Directors of the Order continued the same accusations of incompetence and the internal strife, tearing the community apart. Finally a papal investigation exonerated the saint and reinstated him, but the infighting continued fiercer than ever and the Holy See disbanded the Piarist Fathers, placing the priests under the charge of their bishops. The Order was only reinstated eight years after Joseph's death (he died at age 92), and since then it has continued its excellent work.
So, if a saint like Joseph Calasanz, dedicated only to doing God's will and furthering the cause of Christ faced this kind of heated opposition from every direction, I don't want you to think that encountering a few obstacles – big or small – may indicate that you're on the wrong path. On the contrary, you can't get to Easter Sunday without making your way through Good Friday.
Your loving uncle, Eddy
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