Joseph, who was born on September 11, 1556, grew up in a wealthy family in Spain. As a tutor in Rome, he ministered to people suffering from the plague and floods. Some considered him an apostle to people who were poor. He was especially troubled about children with little means who were growing up in violent surroundings with no hope for a good future or for Christian training. So Joseph opened free schools in Europe. Getting good teachers was difficult. First, Pope Clement VIII and then Pope Paul V encouraged Joseph in his forming of a religious order of men to staff the schools. At this time, Joseph was elected the head of his order, Clerks Regular of the Religious Schools (also called the Piarists). Then attacks began. When students from private schools switched to the free schools, their former teachers were angry. Many rich people were threatened by the thought of underprivileged people learning new ideas. These powerful people tried to stop the free schools.
Even worse, members of his own order began to campaign against him. These men so convinced the pope that something might be wrong within the order that, at the age of 86, Joseph was arrested and had to stand trial before the Holy Office. As a result, Joseph’s work was stopped, and the members of his order became part of the regular diocese. In spite of all this, Joseph protected his persecutors from the angry comments of others. He never lost hope that one day his religious order would be restored and poor children would be served through it. On August 25, 1648, Joseph died in Rome. Twenty years later, Pope Clement IX completely restored the order.
Ask the students to define detraction and slander and explain the effects they have on the person who is guilty of them and on the person who is the victim. Discuss the damage done by listening to gossip. Let the students reflect on these questions:
Have I damaged people’s reputations by careless or critical words? What have I done to repair the damage?
Have the students pray quietly for God’s forgiveness. Direct them to ask God to give special help and grace to those people whom they may have hurt. Encourage them to speak and to act kindly toward these people.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: The Last Communion of Joseph of Calazanz by Francisco Goya, 1819. Public Domain via Wikimedia.