Joseph Calasanctius, St.
JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, ST.
Founder of the Clerks Regular of Religious Schools (piarists); b. Peralta de la Sal, near Barbastro, Aragon, Spain, Sept. 11, 1556; d. Rome, Italy, Aug. 25, 1648. He studied law and theology at the universities of Lérida and Valencia, and was ordained in 1583. He went to Rome in 1592 and became associated with Cardinal Marc'-Antonio Colonna. He also became a member of various confraternities, which better acquainted him with the problems of the laity. He was convinced of the need for religious and secular education for the children of the poor, and opened the first free public school in Europe, at the Church of Santa Dorothea, in 1597. An increasingly large number of students required Calasanctius to enlist more teachers. clement viii encouraged and financially assisted the new institution; paul v continued this help and recognized the foundation of Calasanctius as a formal religious congregation in 1617. Other schools were opened, and in 1621 the teachers were given the full privileges of a religious order. Calasanctius was named superior general and was later confirmed in this appointment for life.
The order enjoyed a rapid growth in Italy and in neighboring countries. Before the death of Calasanctius the order was organized in six provinces, with 500 members in 37 houses. Partly because of its rapid growth, internal dissension arose and Calasanctius suffered grave opposition from some of his own brethren. External attacks frequently centered on the nature of the work done by the Piarists. Free education of the poor was an idea that was novel and suspect at the time, for many believed that the poorer classes, once educated, would no longer pursue their former occupations, to the detriment of society. Moreover, the friendship of Calasanctius and gali leo, and the fact that many young Piarists were educated by the great scientist, contributed to further misunderstandings.
Calasanctius's troubles culminated in 1643 when urban viii ordered the deposition of the generalate, and at the age of 86 Calasanctius stood trial before the Holy Office. He saw the destruction of his work in 1646 when innocent x reduced the order to a simple federation of independent religious houses. With the patience of Job, to whom he was likened, Calasanctius never lost hope that the Piarists would be restored to their original status as a full religious order. This hope was fulfilled only after his death. In 1656 alexander vii partially reestablished the Piarists as a congregation of simple vows, and the order was completely reinstituted in 1669 by clement ix. Calasanctius was beatified in 1748 and canonized in 1767. He was declared "the heavenly patron of all Christian schools" by pius xii.
Feast: Aug. 25 (formerly 27).
Bibliography: joseph calasanctius, Florilegium Calasanctianum, ed. l. picanyol (Rome 1958). Epistolario, ed. l. picanyol, 9 v. (Rome 1950–56). j. de c. bau, Biografía crítica de San José de Calasanz (Madrid 1949). s. giner guerri, El proceso de beatificación de San José de Calasanz (Madrid 1973). teresa of avila, Calasanz Teresian Reader: Selection of Teresian Sentences and Sayings That Deeply Influenced the Spirituality of Her Devoted Reader, Saint Joseph Calasanz, ed. l. gracia (New York 1987). j. timon-david, Vie de saint Joseph Calasanct, fondateur des écoles pies, 2 v. (Marseille 1884). c. s. durrant, The Life of Saint Joseph Calasanctius (Los Angeles 1954). f. giordano, Il Calasanzio e l'origine della scuola popolare (Genoa 1960). j. c. heidenreich, Der hl. Joseph Calasanz (Vienna 1907). a. sapa, Teologia spirituale e pedagogica di san Giuseppe Calasanzio (Florence 1951). r. branca, Avventura del Calasanzio (Cagliari 1967). g. sÁntha, Ensayos críticos sobre S. José de Calasanz y las escuelas Pías (Salamanca 1976). m. a. asiain, La experiencia cristiana de Calasanz (Salamanca 1980).
[l. a. iranyi]