Life and work
Calasanz, feeling pity upon the poor and abandon children living in Rome, founded in Trastevere, in Santa Dorotea Church, the "first public and free tuition school in Europe". His educational goal was expressed in his motto "Piety and Letters", that can be translated into "faith and culture".
He called his work as "Pious Schools". The main point of his educational ideas was the respect for the personality of each child and looking at them as images of Christ. Through the Pious Schools, he tried to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the youth commended to him. Calasanz became a friend of Galileo, the great scientist, and in the education of youth, he gave great importance to sciences and mathematics, as well as to humanities.
In order to continue his educational work, he founded the Order of the Pious Schools, a Religious Order whose members, known as Piarists, profess four vows: poverty, chastity, obedience and dedication to the education of the youth. The dream of Saint Joseph Calasanz of educating every child, his schools for the poor, his support to the sciences of Galileo, and his life of sanctity in the service of children and youth, carried with them the opposition of many among the governing classes in society and in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Nevertheless, Calasanz always showed an exemplary attitude towards facing problems. T
his gift or charisma was received by Calasanz mainly in the form of accepting a new educational and evangelizing mission, in which his first fellows participated. This gave rise to a special and peculiar relationship with regard to sharing the ministry, the accommodation, the prayer and everything implied in community life. It is said that when Calasanz and a small group of disciples embraced religious life, the experiences lived up to that moment were strengthened. The Church approves of the Congregation in 1617, and as an Order with a specific vow on the education of the youth in 1622, under the name of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools.
In the following years until his death, Calasanz promotes the spread of the charisma, taking care of the implementation of the gift represented by the foundation, which he protects from any misleading experiences or interpretations. He is the founder of the first Religious Order specifically devoted to the Christian popular education through the school, and has always highlighted three important features of the charisma from the very beginning. He explicitly affirms it in the Consitution dating back to 1621, and has always stated it in the years when the charisma was spreading but also during times of conflict: assigning a priority to education from the very early childhood, education of the poor and education of piety. He died in Rome, August 25, 1648, convinced that his Order and his dream would not die.
And it was like that. He was declared a saint in 1767, and the Pope Pius XII declared him, in 1948, "celestial patron of all the Christian popular schools". Recently, Pope John Paul II affirmed that Saint Joseph Calasanz took as a model Christ, and he tried to transmit to the youth, besides the profane sciences, the wisdom of the Gospel, teaching them to grasp the loving harmony of God.