Guide to youth
Feast: September 26
The saying “quality, not quantity” applied in the life of Blessed Kaspar Stangassinger. His life was short, just 28 years. But when Pope John Paul II declared him “Blessed” in 1988, the Church was saying to the world not only that this young person’s life was significant, but that all persons are significant.
This theme recurs in Redemptorist awareness – people are significant, people matter. They matter because they are persons and they each spring from the heart of a personal God.
For the young Fr Kaspar, this theme also played out in his dealings with others. Although he joined the Redemptorists to be a missionary, his first appointment was as director to the minor seminary to guide the training of future missionaries. The seminary was in Durrnberg near Hallein. There, Fr Kaspar treated each student as if they mattered, for to him, each of them did. And he knew they mattered to God.
Kaspar Stangassinger was born in 1871 at Berchtesgaden in southern Germany, the second of 16 children. His father was a farmer who also owned a stone quarry.
From an early age, Kaspar imagined his adult life in the service of God as a priest. At the age of ten he went to Freising to continue his schooling. He struggled with his studies. His father made clear his options: to study or leave school and work. Kaspar worked hard and steadily got on top of his school work.
An early sign of his future vocation as a Redemptorist was the youthful Kaspar’s ability, during his school holidays, to gather other young people together and encourage them in their Christian life. Each day the group would attend Mass, hike together or go on a pilgrimage. Kaspar seemed a natural with the young even though he was also young. On one occasion when a boy was in danger of falling while mountain climbing, Kaspar put his own life at risk to see the boy safe.
Kaspar, at the age of 19, entered the seminary of Munich and Freising in 1890. But he was still looking for something else and he suspected it was religious life. After a visit to the Redemptorists he was inspired to follow their vocation as a missionary. His father was not too happy about him joining the Redemptorists, but Kaspar entered the novitiate at Gars in 1892 and was ordained a priest in Regensburg in 1895.
The young priest had a special devotion to the mystery of the Eucharist at the heart of the Christian life. He exhorted all, including the boys he guided in the seminary, to also keep the Eucharist as a focal point in their lives.
In 1899, the Redemptorists opened a new seminary in Gars and Fr Stangassinger was transferred there as director. In this new appointment he had time only to preach one retreat to the students and to participate in the opening of the school year.
On September 26, 1899, Fr Kaspar died of peritonitis. We are left with the realisation that this young man’s life, though brief, was significant. For it is not so much the quantity but the quality of our lives that matters. In the end, because we are all God’s children, each person matters now and for all eternity.