St. Joseph Cafasso and Mother Seton Teach Us How to Love God - Seton Shrine

St. Joseph Cafasso and Mother Seton Teach Us How to Love God

Through their service to the poor and suffering, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Joseph Cafasso show us that falling in love with God means loving the people He loves most.

I once heard it said that we should approach our relationship with God as we would a romantic relationship. While that might sound a bit odd at first, the point is that the things we do when we fall in love are things we should do to deepen our relationship with God. We really are meant to “fall in love” with our Creator.

When we fall in love with another human being, we want to spend as much time with our beloved as possible, getting to know and love their friends and family, and doing what they value and enjoy.

When my husband Dan and I were dating in high school, I was eager to meet his mom and dad. I wanted to know and love the people he loved. Although I didn’t have much interest in sports, I started rooting for his favorite teams and learned to play tennis.

But who are the people God especially loves? Who were the people Jesus sought out to heal, love, serve, and forgive while he was here on earth? The poor and the marginalized. The outsiders. People, I must admit, who aren’t always at the top of my list to spend time with.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter. When Peter said yes, Jesus asked him to “feed my sheep” (John 21:17). He asked Peter to serve the people He loved.

When we struggle to love God’s people, we should look for inspiration to the saints who dedicated their lives to serving “the least” among us.

St. Joseph Cafasso, whose feast day we celebrate June 23, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, are two saints who devoted their lives to loving God’s people. Though their life paths and circumstances were markedly different, they each embraced lives of selfless service to the poor and marginalized.

St. Joseph Cafasso was born in 1811 in Castelnuovo d’Asti, Italy. From birth his spine was disfigured, which caused his body to be undersized and twisted. However, his condition didn’t slow his pursuit of excellence—first in his studies, where he was a star student, especially in theology, and then in his priesthood, where he was a gifted preacher and a dedicated servant of the poor.

The prisons of Joseph’s time were infamously overcrowded, with horrific conditions and abusive treatment of inmates. In these miserable circumstances Joseph saw a challenge. He recognized the dignity of even the most violent and wretched prisoners and devoted himself to visiting them and giving them reasons to hope. He accompanied more than 60 condemned inmates to their deaths—men he called his “hanged saints.” To this day, Joseph is known as the “priest of the gallows” and the patron saint of prisoners and those who are condemned to death.

Joseph was also a mentor and close friend to St. John Bosco. Their friendship was built on mutual respect and a shared vision of serving the poor, especially young boys in need. Joseph’s influence on Bosco was profound; he guided him in his priestly formation and supported his early efforts in founding the Salesians.

Like St. Joseph Cafasso, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was deeply moved by the plight of the poor and needy of her society, especially young girls from struggling families with few opportunities to better themselves. In 1809, she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first congregation of women religious established in the United States, dedicated to serving the poor and sick. She also founded the first free Catholic school for girls run by religious sisters in the nation, which influenced the parochial school system in America.

The remarkable charitable works of St. Joseph Cafasso and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton were built upon deep faith and personal resilience in the face of great trials and hardship. Together, they offer us inspiring examples of how absolute trust in God’s will can lead to holiness in service to God and humanity. Through the witness of their lives, St. Joseph Cafasso and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton show us how to love God by loving the people He loves.

DANIELLE BEAN is a writer and popular speaker on Catholic family life, parenting, marriage, and the spirituality of motherhood. She is the former publisher and editor-in-chief of Catholic Digest, and the author of several books for women including Momnipotent, You’re Worth It! and her newest book, You Are Enough. She is also creator and host of the Girlfriends podcast. Learn more at

Image: Wikicommons

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