St Joseph of Cupertino
St Joseph of Cupertino Confessor (1603 -1663)
Baptized Joseph Desa, this son of a poor shoemaker in Cupertino, near Brindisi (Italy), started having ecstatic visions as early as at the age of 8, so that his schoolmates dubbed him “open-mouthed”. When, at 17, after having been a cobbler’s apprentice for some time, he sought admission first to the Franciscan Conventuals and then to the Capuchins, he was refused for lack of intelligence and because his frequent ecstasies rendered him unfit for work. Finally the Franciscans at La Grotella took him in as a tertiary and gave him work as a stable- hand. Here his exemplary life of penance, humility and obedience saw him accepted to the clerical state in 1625 and ordained to the priesthood in 1628. He was then 25 and was hardly able to read, but by infused knowledge he could solve the most intricate theological questions.
St Joseph possessed the gift of prophecy and of healing, besides the ability to recognize the faces of sinners — their faces appeared black to him while people who lived in impurity were known to him by a disagreeable odour. But he is especially remembered for his extraordinary power of levitation, whereby he was witnessed to have flown over the heads of the congregation from the church door to the altar, or up to a branch of an olive tree where he remained for half an hour in meditation, while the branch was not deflected by any apparent weight upon it.
Such supernatural occurrences naturally brought his monastery much unwanted publicity. As a result, he was ordered into retirement with the Capuchins by Pope Innocent X. For 35 years he was denied permission to attend choir, to eat in the refectory, to walk in procession or celebrate Mass in the Church (a private chapel was provided for him), for the mere mention of God or of a Saint, or even the pound of a church bell, would often suffice to send him into ecstasy. In 1657, however, Pope Alexander VII allowed him to return to the Conventuals at Osimo. Ever cheerful, his entire being flooded with spiritual fervour, Joseph practised severe personal penances, often taking food only on Thursdays and Sundays. He died a simple man of God on 18 September 1663. Beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1753, he was canonized by Pope Clement XIII on 16 July 1767. On account of his famous levitations he has been chosen the Patron Saint of aviators not without a touch of humour!