For the Memory of Bl Marie-Joseph Cassant
In the Cistercian calendar, today is the memorial of Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant, a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Désert, who died on this day in 1903. He was only twenty-five years old, solemnly professed for three years, and a priest for only nine months.
Joseph’s road to the priesthood was always an uphill struggle. His parish priest tried tutoring him for fifteen months in French and Latin, but he saw that Joseph would not make it at the diocesan seminary. So he directed him to the Trappist monastery of Désert, which sounds like a comedown, but it was where monks were ordained to the priesthood after a simpler course of studies, given that we have no pastoral responsibilities or outside ministry. He entered Désert on December 5, 1894.
As a novice, Br Joseph was somewhat timid and scrupulous at times, with a lot of insecurities. It was by trusting obedience to his novice master, Fr André, that he began to grow in confidence in the Heart of Jesus. In the words of Psalm 73, he called the Eucharist “his one happiness on earth”: What else have I in heaven but you? Apart from you I want nothing on earth”.
Even at the abbey, studies did not come easy for Joseph. But Fr André was always there to encourage Joseph, to set him again and again on the path of confidence in the Heart of Jesus.
So Joseph was ordained on October 12, 1902, when he was twenty-four and a half years old. Already tuberculosis was wreaking havoc on his body. His abbot sent him home to his family for seven weeks of rest, hoping that his health might improve, but it was too late for that. On returning to the abbey, Fr Joseph was sent to the infirmary. His lungs were beyond repair, and his breathing difficult.
Fr André remained close to his spiritual son, offering reassurance and comfort, and helping him to trust in the love of the Heart of Jesus for him. On June 17, 1903, Fr Marie-Joseph received Holy Communion for the last time and, a few moments later, passed into the contemplation of Christ face to face.
The memorial of Blessed Marie-Joseph Cassant, coming as it does in the month of the Sacred Heart, and on the day after the feast of St Lutgard, invites us to follow him along the path of confidence in the Heart of Jesus and a burning love for the Eucharist. For Blessed Marie-Joseph, nothing equaled the Mass; the Mass became his life. At the hour of death, his identification with Christ the priest was complete. Today, through Christ, and with Him, and in Him, he makes priestly intercession in heaven for those who ask for it on earth.