St. Joseph Pignatelli

Author: Rev. Clifford Stevens


Feast: November 29

Joseph Pignatelli was a Jesuit at the time of the suppression of the order by Pope Clement XIV, and it was he who helped keep the spirit of the Jesuits alive during the long period of its suppression.

He was born in Saragossa, Spain, in 1737 and was left an orphan at the age of nine. His older brother took charge of the family, and Joseph and his younger brother became resident-students at the Jesuit college in Saragossa. He entered the Jesuits when he was sixteen, his younger brother, Nicholas, following him. During his student years, he contracted tuberculosis and was in poor health for the rest of his life.

After his ordination in 1762, St. Joseph Pignatelli served as chaplain to a prison and worked especially with those condemned to die. On April 3, 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from Spain by order of Charles III, and similar expulsions soon took place in Portugal and France. Young as he was, Father Joseph became the leader of the Spanish Jesuits and had gained a reputation for remarkable leadership in the Cloak and Sombrero Riots a few years earlier. All the Jesuits of Spain were taken to the port of Tarragona and banished from the country, their number filling thirteen flotillas. Refused entry to several port cities, they debarked at Corsica for a time, then found refuge in Ferrara.

When Pope Clement XIV formally suppressed the Jesuits in 1773, Father Joseph went to Bologna and, forbidden to exercise his priestly ministry, spent his time in prayer and scholarship. In 1797, the duke of Parma, with the encouragement of Joseph, received permission from the pontiff to establish a Jesuit province in his duchy. In 1798, Pope Pius VI, en route to exile in France, authorized Father Joseph to receive novices at Parma. Appointed Jesuit provincial of Italy, Joseph presided at the restoration of the society in Naples when Jesuits from all over the world came together, and in 1806 Pius VII restored the Gesu and the Roman college to the order. Joseph directed the restoration of the order before its official restoration by the pontiff in 1814.

Weakened by his tubercular condition, Father Joseph died on November 11, 1811, and was canonized in 1954. He is considered the savior and restorer of the Society of Jesus.

Thought for the Day: With the suppression of the Jesuits, St. Joseph Pignatelli saw his whole world collapse around him. He showed exceptional leadership in dark and difficult times and became the strength of thousands of others. This was the result of his deep life of prayer; it is this kind of prayer that makes saints.

From 'The Catholic One Year Bible': . . . A day or a thousand years from now is like tomorrow to the Lord. He isn't really being slow about his promised return, even though it sometimes seems that way.... The day of the Lord is surely coming, as unexpectedly as a thief,. . .—2 Peter 3:8-10

Taken from "The One Year Book of Saints" by Rev. Clifford Stevens published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN 46750.