Joseph Calasanz was born in Peralta de la Sal (Spain) on September 11, 1557. He was the youngest of eight children (five girls and three boys) of Pedro Calasanz and Maria Gaston Sala, of a family belonging to the lower ranks. He received a good education at home and then at the school of Peralta.
After completing his primary school in his hometown, he was sent to boarding school in Estadilla to study Latin, Humanities and Rhetoric. As soon as he completed his classical studies at Estadilla he took up philosophy and canon law at Lerida and merited the degree of Doctor of Laws, and then with honors completed his Theological course at Valencia and Alcala de Henares. Later, Calasanz received his Doctorate in Theology in Barcelona.
His decision to become a priest, in the beginning, was quit hard because his father Pedro wanted him to marry and perpetuate the family. God interfered a sickness, which soon brought Calasanz to the brink of the grave. On his recovery, his father allowed him to receive the sacred Order. He was ordained priest on December 17, 1583, in Sanahuja (Catalan Region) by Bishop Hugo Ambrose de Moncada, Ordinary of Urgel.
Calasanz began his labor as priest as secretary, confessor and examiner to some Bishops, chapter secretary, master of ceremonies at the cathedral, chief of staff of the Bishop, parish priest, archpriest, diocesan reformer and procurator with faculties as vicar-general.
A few years after serving to some dioceses in Spain, he embarked for Rome (1592), seeking to know himself better and also to improve his economic situation. Instead, he found God in the poor and abandoned boys of Trastevere. In a letter he writes: "I have found in Rome the definitive way to serve God in the children and youth, and I will never leave it for anything in the world."
In 1597, at the Church of St. Dorothy, he began the first free school in Europe. Pope Clement VIII gave an annual contribution and many others shared in the good work, so that in a short time Calasanz had about a thousand children under his charge. He devoted himself for the neglected children for the rest of his life in the education of piety and learning. This is his unique contribution to the reform of the Church and the society of his time.
To assure continuity to his work, he founded the Order of the Pious Schools (Piarist Fathers, Escolapios), a religious Order of priest and brothers, under the motto of Piety and Learning. However, much envy and opposition arose against him, to his school and to his new institute, but all were overcome in time.
He died in Rome, a faithful son of the Church and a true friend of forsaken children in the house of St. Pantaleo, in 1648. His beatification was solemnized on August 7, 1748, and his canonization on July 16, 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. With Gods grace, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him the Universal Patron Of All Catholic Schools in 1948.
His liturgical feast is celebrated every August 25. In Calasanzian centers the feast is usually celebrated on November 27.