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St Joseph Cafasso
Priest (entered heaven in 1860)
I am sorry to bother you, but I had a particularly inspiring meditation this morning (in spite of the heat – do you realize how horribly hot office cubicles can get when the air conditioning is on the fritz?), and I have to share it with someone.
I was considering one of the celebrated phrases of today’s saint: “We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.” It’s a great reminder of the meaning of life. It’s so easy to get caught up in so many other thoughts, distractions, and activities, that we lose sight of the unifying principle, the one thing that brings everything else together: the fact that we are loved by God, created in his image, and find our meaning and happiness in loving him in return. It’s that simple!
So I was meditating on that, and considering it in light of St Joseph’s own life, and the Holy Spirit just about whacked me over the head with a simple but profound consolation. You see, Joseph Cafasso didn’t lead one of those dramatic, glorious lives that so many saints led. There’s no flood of miracles, gruesome tortures, or political intrigues surrounding his personal history. Not at all.
Joseph was born to a simple family in northern Italy and ordained a priest at age 22. Three years later he was made a professor at the ecclesiastical college in Turin. Ten years later he was made Rector of the same college, and he stayed in the same position for the rest of his life (he only lived to be 49 years old). It’s such a plain, ordinary itinerary, and yet in the midst of it he became a saint – he truly learned to love.
He taught classes, directed young priests and seminarians (including a couple other canonized saints: St John Bosco and St Joseph Cottolengo), ministered to prisoners and convicts (especially those on death row – many of whom he brought back to Christ), and encouraged good works wherever he could. He also spent long hours speaking intimately with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Maybe that was the difference for him. Maybe that’s part of the reason we celebrate his memory in June, the month of the Sacred Heart, the revelation of Christ’s passionate love for you, for me, for every sinner, as expressed superabundantly in the mysterious gift of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
Well, here in my prison I have no Eucharist, but I still have Christ. And if the meaning of life is love, if that’s what we’re born for, we live for, and we die for, well then, I have plenty of work to do even in the midst of this torturous circumstance. This is where God wants me; this is where he wants to teach me to love… What more could I desire?
Sorry to bend your ear (or your eyes, I guess), but those simple truths can do wonderful things to the soul, whether you happen to be incarcerated (like myself), or interning (like yourself). I hope you catch my drift.
Your loving uncle,