ST. JOSEPH CALASANZ,
Founder of the Piarists.
Universal Patron of all the Christian popular schools in the world.
He was considered to be THE FOUNDER OF THE FIRST FREE PUBLIC SCHOOL IN MODERN EUROPE. In an era when no one else was interested in public education, Calasanz managed to set up schools with a highly complex structure. He was concerned with physical education and hygiene. He addressed the subject in various documents and requested school directors to monitor children’s health.
In his schools, he encouraged that Latin, Mathematics, Sciences and the vernacular language be taught. Nevertheless, his main concern was undoubtedly the moral and Christian education of his students. As both priest and educator, HE CONSIDERED EDUCATION TO BE THE BEST WAY OF CHANGING SOCIETY. All his writing is imbued with his Christian ideals, and the constitutions and regulations of the Pious schools were based on the same spirit. St. Joseph Calasanz created an ideal image of a Christian teacher and used it to train the teachers who worked with him.
He was THE FIRST EDUCATOR TO ADVOCATE THE PREVENTIVE METHOD: it is better to anticipate mischievous behaviour than to punish it. This method was later developed by John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian schools. In terms of discipline, and contrary to the prevailing philosophy of his own and subsequent eras, Calasanz favored the mildest punishment possible. While believing that punishment was necessary in certain cases, he always preached moderation, love and kindness as the basis of any discipline.
He was an object of injustices on the part of the powerful and of some clergy, but above all by a “spiritual” son of his, the infamous Father Stefano Cherubini, who in spite of his immoral life, and due to powerful family political connections, was appointed the Superior General of the Order, resulting to the isolation and putting aside of of St. Joseph from the order he himself founded. Upon his appointment, St. Joseph publicly documented Cherubini’s long pattern of child molestation, a pattern that he had known about for years. Even this did not block Cherubini’s appointment, but other members of the Order were indignant about it, although they may have objected to Cherubini’s more overt shortcomings. With such dissension, the Holy See took the easy course of suppressing the Order. In 1646, it was deprived of its privileges by Pope Innocent X. (See Annex)
He was beatified in 1748, and canonized in 1767. He was declared “UNIVERSAL PATRON OF ALL THE CHRISTIAN POPULAR SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD” by Pope Pius XII, in 1948, because he had the glory of opening “the first free tuition, popular, public school in Europe” (Von Pastor) and had proclaimed the right to education of all children, fought for it, and was persecuted because of this.
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