September 17, 2017

St. Joseph of Cupertino, Confessor and Mystic

Saint Joseph of Cupertino

Optional Memorial - September 18th

St. Joseph of Cupertino is an inspiration for anyone who has felt they can never do anything right. This slow, clumsy and most unlikely saint is known for great holiness, which was expressed in his ecstasies and habit of levitating during prayer. He had a difficult life from the moment it began. His father died before Joseph's birth, and his mother was most cruel. He had little formal instruction.

He was born at Cupertino, in present-day Italy, in 1603. Sadly, for Joseph, his own mother considered him bothersome and treated him badly. Slow-witted and reputedly bad-tempered, he was not well liked by anyone else either. It seemed he could succeed at little. Even the Capuchins sent him away after only eight months as a novice because of his clumsiness, ineptitude and inability to focus.

Finally, in desperation, his uncle convinced the Conventual Franciscans to accept him as a servant to the order. That is when Joseph began to change, becoming humble, prayerful, and successful at the menial tasks assigned to him. The order accepted him as a full member, and though he had a hard time at his studies, he became a deacon and then a priest because the examiner happened to ask him the only question he knew well. He had prayed to God the night before to pass.

His ecstasies and levitations during Mass and prayer — seventy such incidents were verified at his canonization—were often a burden, because some regarded him as a kind of circus attraction. However, he was also able to bring many others to a deeper spirituality and a greater faith. In 1653, due to his growing notoriety, church authorities transferred him to a Capuchin friary in the hills of Pietarossa, keeping him out of sight (and thus suspending his public ministry).

In August of 1663, Joseph became ill, but was filled with joy in knowing he would soon be united to God. Joseph's health alternated between being so weak that he could not rise, to experiencing one last "flight" on the feast of the Assumption, while saying Mass. He died the evening of September 18, 1663, after receiving the last rites and reciting the Litany of Our Lady. He was buried two days later in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Clement XIII canonized him in 1767. He is the patron saint of air travelers, astronauts, pilots and studying.

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