Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Patron Saint for 2014!

I tend to ridicule the whole "word for the year" scenario. After all, who knows what the year will bring? I think I know where we will be living in May, but that's just an educated guess. And that's assuming that nothing catastrophic happens between now and then.

Some people might get pleasure from looking back over the year and coming up with a word to sum it all up. I've got 2 words for this year:

Never Again.

So no, I won't assume that this year will be "Peace," because God's little joke would be to saddle me with an apartment upstairs full of partying college students. No jinxes for me, thank you. But having a saint is different.

It's different because it's a relationship with a person instead of a magic spell. I mean sure, I still try to guess what the year has in store based on the name, because that's human nature, but the point isn't that he's the patron saint of whatever. It's that centuries ago lived a man with all the flaws and joys of being human, and this year we get to become friends. 

I used Jennifer of Conversion Diary's Saint Generator to select my new acquaintance, and I was glad it was someone I've never heard of: Joseph Calasanz. He lived from September 11, 1557 – August 25, 1648 in Spain, and he founded an order devoted to teaching poor and homeless young boys. In fact, he was the organizer of the first free public school in Europe. Moreover, he was remarkably progressive in his views - believing in gentle discipline, training in vernacular languages, vocational training, and a devotion to math and science. He was also a friend of Galileo's! 

He wasn't perfect though, and his greatest flaw sounds awfully familiar. One of the teachers in the order, named Cherubini, had a long and documented history of sexual abuse of the children in his care. When confronted by Calasanz, Cherubini reminded him of the great power Cherubini held due to his family name and prestige, and threatened to dissolve the Order if his crimes were made public. So instead of publicly denouncing Cherubini, Calasanz simply moved him to another position to get him out of the way. Funny how some things never change. 

It was a cruel irony then that Cherubini was so favored that he was promoted by popular demand to Calasanz's place. Upon his appointment, Calasanz finally revealed his secret, but it made no difference in Cherubini's position. Instead, these facts, together with opposition from the Jesuits and Calasanz's connections to Galileo, contributed to the demise of the Order, and it was disbanded by Pope Innocent X. In spite of all, he remained faithful and was cannonized by Pope Alexander VII, who also cleared the name of the Order and its schools. He is the patron saint of students and schools, especially Christian schools. 

Cool story huh? I look forward to learning more about him as the year progresses. And, I hope that it will inspire me to serve the poor wherever we end up, and to be bold against injustice when needed. 

Saint Joseph Calasanz, pray for us!

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