"He’s a saint, I tell you": Reflecting on St. Joseph Cafasso

Today Holy Mother Church also celebrates the feast day of St. Joseph Cafasso. Cafasso met St. John Bosco when Bosco was 12 and when he, Cafasso, was a seminarian very involved in the work of the parish.

Bosco ran home after having met Seminarian Cafasso, and announced to his mother: “I met him, I met him!” “Who?” his mother asked. “Joseph Cafasso, mother. He’s a saint, I tell you.”

I wonder if I can stop blogging here. What better a lesson can we learn from this saint than this: that we ought to live holy lives that somehow make other people think of us as saintly. This is not to say that we should have “articifical holiness”, but I think that if we sincerely try to get better always, others will find in us an example of a good servant of the Lord. And kids will run to their parents saying, “He’s going to be a saint!”

Just look at that photo: he looks like a saint!

But I won’t stop blogging there. There’s more to say. Cafasso was ordained a priest in 1833 and began working as a theology professor in a seminary. He was very well loved.

Many reflections conclude from Cafasso’s life that he was a man who believed immensely in the gentle mercy of God, which impelled him to a ministry of priestly service characterized most by gentle love and mercy. This drew others to him. There’s a great lesson in that.

St. John Bosco is one such man who was drawn to this saint. Cafasso was Bosco’s spiritual adviser, and Bosco credited him as the man who helped in a profound way his discernment, which led him to receive the vocation of working with boys.

Cafasso was also interested in prison reform and worked to improve the prison conditions of the time. He was known as that priest who would go to public hangings to hear the confessions of those being hanged. He stayed with them, and shared in their moments of rejection, loss, and desolation. He was the presence of God to these men. Many, many of these folks came to sincere repentence BECAUSE of Cafasso. He called them “hanged saints.” Cafasso said: “Heaven is filled with converted sinners of all kinds and there is room for more.”

Working with future priests and all kinds of young people was a central part of his priestly ministry. Cafasso once said: “A few acts of confidence and love are worth more than a thousand ‘who knows? who knows?'”

St. Joseph Cafasso: Pray for us!