Monday, June 21, 2010

The zealous Don Cafasso loved Our Lady 熱心的嘉法沙神父

This coming Wednesday (June 23) will be the 150th anniversary of the death of a holy priest, St. Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860). He was a priest of the Turin diocese, and was the spiritual director and confessor of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Order.

Single-minded dedication

At the age of 15, Cafasso decided to become a priest. He was a model seminarian excelling in virtues like charity and obedience. Testimonies after his death confirmed that no one had ever noticed any sin in him.

In 1827, the young cleric met the 12-year-old John Bosco for the first time. Cafasso was waiting for the church door to be opened. Bosco offered to show him the sights of the feast that was being celebrated.

Cafasso declined, saying, “He who embraces the clerical state sells himself to the Lord, and must henceforth set his heart on nothing in the world except what can redound to the greater glory of God and the advantage of souls.”

These words summed up the entire program of Cafasso’s priestly life.

At his priestly ordination in 1833, he wrote this resolution: “I wish to become a saint, and as I do not know whether my life will be long or short, I protest to You that I wish to make myself a saint soon.”

As a priest Father Cafasso became a lecturer on moral theology at the ecclesiastical college attached to St. Francis Church. There he trained young priests to preach and to hear confessions. He not only instructed young priests with knowledge, but also inspired them with love for God and zeal for souls. He insisted that the worst enemy of priests was the “spirit of worldliness.”

Multitasking priest

St. John Bosco considered the most marvellous thing about St. Joseph Cafasso was the number of his works.

Besides his works at the college, Father Cafasso was a zealous priest who spent much time in preaching and hearing confessions. He was a popular preacher who preached with love and simplicity. He would spent several hours a day in the confessional, and had the wondering gift of touching hearts. He had a most special aptitude for saying just the right thing.

Sleeping only five hours each night, Father Cafasso spent time instructing poor boys, visiting penitents who were in hospitals or on their deathbeds, giving audiences in his room, and praying before the Blessed Sacrament. The work that struck the imagination of the general public the most was his ministry to prisoners.

‘Hanged saints’

With great courage and charity, Father Cafasso ministered to those in prison. Once he spent a week preparing 45 criminals for confession, but when the appointed time came, no one would go.

He walked over to the strongest prisoner and held his long beard, saying, “I will not let you go until you go to confession.”

The man protested, saying that he was not prepared. Father Cafasso said, “I will prepare you.”

The man allowed himself to be led to a corner of the room for confession. Moved by Cafasso’s words, the strong man started to cry. Afterward he told his companions that he had never been so happy in life, and persuaded them all to confess. Father Cafassco heard confessions till late that night.

Father Cafasso accompanied 68 condemned criminals to their executions. He prepared each of them with prayer, penance, the sacraments, and companionship. All of them died repentant. Father Cafasso promised them an immediate entrance into heaven if they would offer up their execution as an act of penance. He asked them to deliver messages for him in heaven, and called them his “hanged saints.”

Father Cafasso had great love for Our Lady, and he constantly promoted devotion to her. He dedicated Saturday to her, and often expressed his desire to die on a Saturday. This desire was fulfilled when he passed to eternity on June 23, 1860.

六月二十三日、本星期三,是聖若瑟.嘉法沙St. Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) 神父逝世一百五十週年的紀念日子。聖嘉法沙神父隸屬意大利都靈Turin教區,亦是慈幼會Salesian Order創辦人、聖若望.鮑思高St. John Bosoco神父的神師。

一心一意的奉獻

嘉法沙十五歲時已决志當神父,而他的愛德和謙遜的聽命精神,在當修生時已經表露無遺。人們在他死後給他當見 證,表示從未見過他犯任何罪過。

一八二七年,嘉法沙首度遇見當時只有十二的若望.鮑思高:嘉法沙正等待聖堂開門,年幼的鮑思高主動提出領他欣賞瞻禮的慶祝活動,但他拒絕了;他道:「加入 神職界就等於把自己出售了給天主,所以在他的內心,要擯棄世俗的一切,專注於愈顯主榮、裨益人靈的事。」這正好總結了嘉法沙神父一生滿全鐸職的精神。

一八三三年,嘉法沙晉鐸時寫道:「天主,我要成為聖人。我不知道我生命的長短,所以,我要祢讓我盡早成聖!」

嘉法沙神父任聖方濟神學院院長時,不獨教授倫理神學,指導年青司鐸如何講道、如何聽告解,也以愛主愛靈的精 神,薰陶他們。他常強調「世俗化」是司鐸們的最大死敵。

能幹的神父

聖若望.鮑思高認為聖若瑟.嘉法沙最了不起的,是他參與多項的工作。

除執教神學外,熱心的嘉法沙神父經常講道和聽告解。他充滿愛德和簡易明瞭的講道,大受歡迎。每天他都用上多 個小時,坐在告解亭內聽告解,而他天賦觸動人心說話的本領,常有恰到好處的效果。

嘉法沙神父每晚睡眠五小時,亦忙於教導貧童、探訪病弱和病危的人、聆聽別人的細訴、朝拜聖體等。而他最為人 樂道的,莫過於他在監獄中的牧民工作。

「受絞刑的聖人」

嘉法沙神父以極大的勇氣和愛心,在監獄中進行牧民的服務。

有一次,嘉法沙神父用了整整一星期,幫助四十五個犯人辦告解,但到了預定聽告解的時間時,竟沒有一人願意告 解。他逕直走到一個最健碩的犯人面前,扯着他的長鬚子,說:「你不辦告解,我决不讓你走!」那人抗辯道:「我還未作好準備哩!」嘉法沙答道:「那我就給你 準備好!」那人最後還是讓神父聽他的告解,更因神父的言詞,感動到痛哭起來。那人告解後對同伴們說「一生從未如此快樂過」,並勸說其他人辦告解。嘉法沙神 父當天聽告解到深夜。

嘉法沙神父幫肋了六十八位死囚接受死刑。他多次探望他們並聽他們告罪,幫助他們痛悔和做補贖。在行刑前夕盡 量倍伴死囚並通宵為他祈禱、作補贖。早上為死囚獻彌撤並送臨終聖體。他陪伴死囚踏上絞刑台,勸他們以接受死刑作為補贖以直升天堂。他更託他們到天堂時替他 傳話,並稱他們是「受絞刑的聖人」。

嘉法沙神父敬愛聖母並積極傳揚對她的敬禮。他常以星期六為特敬聖母日,且多次表示希望自己能在星期六死去。 最後他如願以償, 逝世於一八六零年,六月二十三日、星期六。

Published at Pax Sinica column (June 21) of The B.C . Catholic newspaper