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Saint of the day 23 June: Saint Joseph Cafasso, priest

Trainer “of parish priests and diocesan priests, indeed of saintly priests, including St John Bosco”. This is St Joseph Cafasso in the words of Benedict XVI who, of the Piedmontese religious, highlighted the ‘school of life and priestly holiness’

It is from the Turin of 1800 that the most common appellation is handed down for the man who is indicated as a model of luminous priestly life: ‘the Saint of the Gallows’.

A definition directly linked to his commitment to the side of those condemned to death in Turin’s ‘Le Nuove’ prisons, now disused and transformed into a touching museum that traces the disheartening conditions in which prisoners lived.

With the prisoners, of whom he is patron today, he uses immense mercy, a powerful vehicle of God’s paternal and consoling love.

It is precisely because of his assiduous mission at the side of the poorest that he is also remembered as one of Turin’s so-called Social Saints, a dozen or so enlightened religious and lay people who, between the 19th and 20th centuries, directed their work towards the emergencies of the city and all those in need.

Giuseppe Cafasso, the figure of the true pastor

Giuseppe Cafasso was born into a peasant family in Castelnuovo d’Asti in 1811 and was ordained a priest in Turin in 1834.

He spent his life in the ecclesiastical boarding school of the Piedmontese capital, of which he became director.

A co-heir and spiritual father of Don Bosco (1815-1888), Don Cafasso stood out not only for his teaching at the major seminary in Turin but also for the gentleness and serenity he knew how to transmit to people.

He became so familiar among his fellow citizens that he was offered to present himself to the Chamber of the Kingdom, but Giuseppe Cafasso refused

‘On the day of judgement,’ he comments, ‘the Lord will ask me if I was a good priest and not a good deputy’.

What interests him is the figure of the true pastor with a rich interior life and a deep zeal in pastoral care: faithful to prayer, committed to preaching, dedicated to the celebration of the Eucharist and the ministry of Confession.

St Joseph Cafasso therefore sought to implement this model in the formation of young priests, so that they, in turn, might be formators of other priests, religious and lay people.

A legacy that in Turin, and not only there, has been handed down over time, as witnessed by the profound devotion to the Saint, who died in the city on 23 June 1860, at the age of 49.

His  remains rest at the Sanctuary of the Consolata.

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