St Joseph Calasanz

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Patron saint of Christian schools. St Joseph was born in 1550, the youngest son of an Aragonese nobleman. Some time after being ordained priest in 1583, he was made vicar-general of Lerida diocese and sent to work in the remote valleys of Andorra. But St Joseph felt called to working with the urban poor, so he resigned his office and left for Rome where a plague was raging. Together with St Camillus de Lellis, he worked with the sick and dying. Later he returned home and set up the first of several free schools for poor children.

The most painful time in his life began when he was 65 and became the victim of some malicious and false charges. The Inquisition arrested him and he was carted through the streets like a criminal, only escaping imprisonment through the intervention of Cardinal Cezarini.

It was many years before the truth came out and his name was completely cleared. St Joseph bore all these trials with great patience, dying at the age of 90 in Rome. His order, which was called the Piarists, flourished, especially in Italy, Spain and South America. Today there are more than 1,300 Piarists teaching 115,000 students in 32 countries around the world.

St Joseph was canonised in 1767.