NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Saint of the Month - June 2017 - Blessed Joseph-Marie Cassant

Bl. Joseph-Marie Cassant
Priestly Victim Soul for the Church ~ June 17th

"All for Jesus; all through Mary." That was Bl. Joseph-Marie's personal motto, and the holy manner in which he lived his brief life was proof that he meant every word of it.

Born Pierre-Joseph Cassant on March 6, 1878, at Casseneuil, Lot-et-Garonne, France, he was the younger of two boys born to orchard-keepers. As is mostly the case in the lives of our Saints and Blesseds, his family appears to have been pious and sent him to board with the La Salle [Teaching] Brothers where he was further exposed to an excellent Christian education. However, biographers relate that the child's ability to retain information was poor and he struggled with his studies. Nonetheless, the seeds of a religious vocation were sown during his stay with the Brothers and they began taking root in the student's heart.

At 14, Pierre-Joseph came to the realization that he wanted to become a priest, but his learning disability prevented his acceptance into a seminary. He turned to his parish priest, Father Filhol, for guidance who advised him to enter the Trappist Order, given the boy was inclined to silence and contemplative prayer. The teenager, agreeing with the discernment of the priest, applied for admission with the Trappist Abbey of Saint Mary of the Desert in Toulouse. There, after a period of testing, Pierre-Joseph was accepted as a novice on December 5, 1894.  He was only 16-years-old and took the name Bro. Joseph-Marie.

Another photo of Bl. Joseph-Marie,
Trappist priest of Toulouse, France.
The Master of Novices in the abbey, a Fr. Andre Mallet, immediately recognized the latent sanctity present in the ever-smiling novice and said to him, "Only trust and I will help you to love Jesus!" His words gained the boy's confidence, who gave himself wholeheartedly over to Fr. Andre's discipline and tutorship.

Despite being well-liked by his spiritual brethren for his amiable and docile nature, Bro. Joseph-Marie's early years as a religious were not without challenges. His poor learning skills often resulted in misunderstandings and humiliations from his teachers, and was a personal trial for him. But through the formation he received from his mentor, Fr. Andre, his love for Christ blossomed through frequent meditation on the Passion and the Cross. He surrendered everything that he was to the Lord - his strengths and his weaknesses - and simply trusted that God would provide whatever he was lacking. He was also noted for his strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin - hence, his name in religion and his personal motto: "All for Jesus; all through Mary." Bro. Joseph-Marie professed final vows as a member of the Trappists on May 24, 1900, on the Feast of the Ascension.

After his profession, his studies began for the priesthood, which was also marked with difficulties, but Bro. Joseph-Marie persevered and was ordained on October 12, 1902. Sadly, shortly after the ordination, he was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis. The young priest suspected he was ill, but had never complained of the increasing pain the disease entailed. Instead, he bore everything with patience and his habitual silence. His superiors sent him home for seven weeks in the hopes of some sort of recovery, but he returned to the abbey in a much worse state, spending most of his time in the infirmary.

As months passed and his suffering intensified, Fr. Joseph-Marie's union with Jesus deepened. He bravely accepted his terminal condition and offered himself as a sacrifice to the Sacred Heart on behalf of the Church. Furthermore, the dying priest had registered his name with the Association of Victim Souls, which was inspired by the writings of the mystic-nun, Bl. Marie Deluil-Martiny. In his oblation, and through the grace of the Mass, Fr. Joseph-Marie found profound strength, solace, and purpose before passing to his eternal reward on the morning of June 17, 1903. He was only 25-years-old at the time of his death.

Fr. Joseph-Marie's reputation for holiness only continued to grow after his death, and his Cause for Canonization was opened in Toulouse in 1935. After the Church recognized the miraculous healing of a child with meningitis though his intercession, Joseph-Marie Cassant was declared a Blessed on October 3, 2004. May God grant the Church the gift of his speedy Canonization.

A Reflection
"The best thing I can hope for is that you ever abide as one in the Heart of Jesus." ~ Words from a letter written by Bl. Joseph-Marie to his parents.

A Short Prayer
Dear Bl. Joseph-Marie, help us in our every day moments to live fortified by the comforting knowledge that we are loved and affirmed by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  May we dwell in the heart of Christ always.  Amen.

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