The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Venerable Joseph Cafasso

detail of a portrait of Saint Giuseppe Cafasso, by Enrico Reffo, 1895; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAt the same time as Cottolengo there lived in Turin another holy priest, the Venerable Joseph Cafasso. In 1835, the Venerable Don Bosco came to take up his theological studies in Turin, and during that time Don Cafasso was his confessor, director, and most trusted friend. If the Church owed nothing else to Joseph Cafasso but the fact that he trained up a Don Bosco for her, she would be obliged to render him the greatest gratitude. But we can not number the persons who were inspired with zeal for Christ and the Church by the word and example of Cafasso. There was at that time in Turin what was practically a seminary for young priests – the Institute of Saint Francis of Assisi. In this seminary Cafasso was professor of moral theology, and from 1848 to i860 director of the Institute. The preparation of the mind and heart of the priest, so that he would be able to meet modern demands in the true spirit of the Church, was the ideal which Cafasso sought to realize. Piedmont can thank him for many eminent priests. His pupil, Don Bosco, writes of him: “All agree that we can call his priestly life rather that of an angel than of a man . . . Some called him a new Saint Aloysius on account of his innocence and the purity of his morals; others a Saint Francis of Sales on account of his gentleness, patience, and charity; others a Saint Vincent de Paul for his active love of his neighbor; others still a Saint Charles Borromeo on account of his mortified life and the severity with which he treated himself; and finally, some saw in him a Saint Alphonsus de Liguori on account of his friendliness, condescension, and goodness. For my part, I must say that in the lives of the saints I have found many who excelled in a heroic degree, one by this, another by that virtue, but I believe that rarely can any one be found who actually combined in his person so much wisdom, experience in human affairs, magnanimity, fortitude, temperance, and zeal of God’s honor and for the salvation of souls as shone forth from the priest Cafasso.”

The activity of Cafasso was by no means confined to his Institute. He had spiritual charge of the prison. Before Don Bosco, he was engaged in caring for children. He had care of the shrine of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in Lanzo.

He was much sought for as a confessor, gave many retreats, and all classes of people came to him for advice and help. He died after a short illness on 23 June 1860, at forty-nine years of age. In his notes we find that it was his constant prayer that all memory of him might disappear save remembrance in prayer. But, for our consolation and encouragement, God has not granted this humble petition and the miraculous favors which He grants to the invocation of Cafasso indicate that He will make still more known this example of virtue to the world. Pius X published the decree opening the apostolic processes on 15 May 1906.

– this text is taken from The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, by Father Constantine Kempf, SJ; translated from the German by Father Francis Breymann, SJ; Impimatur by + Cardinal John Farley, Archbishop of New York, 25 September 1916