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Joseph Calasanctius

1556-1648. Founder of the Piarists.* Born near Petralta de la Sal, he studied law and theology at Lérida, Valencia, and Alcalá; was ordained in 1583; and went to Rome in 1592, where he was patronized by the Colonna family and became active in charitable works. Convinced of the need to provide religious and secular education for the children of the poor, he opened in 1597 the first free public school in Europe (in Rome) and established in 1602 the Piarist Order for those teaching, giving full privileges of a religious order. Dissension arose: Galileo's associations were suspected, and fears were expressed that the educated poor might unbalance society. By 1643 crises led to Joseph's own trial, and in 1646 destruction came when Innocent X reduced the order to a federation of independent religious houses, not to be fully restored until Clement IX (1669). Joseph was canonized in 1767; Pius XII declared him “the heavenly patron of all Christian schools.”