Today, June 23rd, we celebrate the feast of *St. Joseph Cafasso*, Italian priest and social reformer in early 19th-century Turin and patron of prisoners.
Joseph Cafasso was born in Italy, of peasant parents. He was the third child of a family of four. His parents, who were known for their charity to the poor, were small farmers who had to supplement their scanty income by working on neighbouring farms.
He studied at the seminary at Turin, and was ordained in 1833. He continued his theological studies and despite a deformed spine, became a brilliant lecturer in moral theology there.
He was then made rector, the position he held for twenty-four years until the time of his death. There he worked especially against the spirit of Jansenism, an excessive preoccupation with sin and damnation. Joseph recommended membership in the Secular Franciscan Order to priests. He urged devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and encouraged daily Communion.
Cafasso was also a noted confessor and spiritual director, who guided many men and women who would go on to found new religious institutions or congregations which would help the Catholic Church to meet the needs of both Italy and the whole world. Among them was John Bosco, the Servant of God, Giulia Falletti di Barolo, who became noted for her advocacy of women prisoners, and the Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno.
Additionally, Cafasso was known for his extensive ministry in the local prisons and served as the comforter of those condemned to the death penalty, coming to be called “The Priest of the Gallows”.
Joseph also spent many hours a day hearing the confessions of local people. His life of penance, prayer, charity, labor and self-denial, he continued to live up to his death.
Cafasso was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947. The following year, Pope Pius XII declared him to be the patron saint of all Italian prisons and prisoners. In 1950 Pope Pius further offered him as an example to all priests involved as confessors and spiritual directors.
*St. Joseph Cafasso, pray for us.*