September 18, 2017: ST. JOSEPH OF CUPERTINO
September 18, 2017: ST. JOSEPH OF CUPERTINO, CONFESSOR
(The Flying Friar)
“The eye of the Lord looked kindly on him; he lifted him up from his low state, and raised up his head.”
O God, who wast pleased to draw all things to thy only begotten son, when raised on high; mercifully grant that, by the merits and example of thy seraphic Confessor, Joseph, being raised above all earthly desires, we may arrive at him. Who, livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
While, in France, the rising spirit of Jansenism was driving God from the hearts of the people, a humble son of St. Francis, in southern Italy, was showing how easily love may span the distance between earth and heaven. ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself,’ (St. John, xii. 32) said our Lord; and time has proved it to be the most universal of His prophecies. On the feast of the holy cross, we witnessed its truth, even in the domain of social and political claims. We shall experience it in our very bodies on the great day, when we shall be taken up in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air. (I Thess, iv. 16) But Joseph of Cupertino had experience of it without waiting for the resurrection: innumerable witnesses have borne testimony to his life of continual ecstasies, wherein he was frequently seen raised high in the air. And these facts took place in what men are pleased to call the noonday of history.
Let us read the account of him given by holy Church.
Joseph was born of pious parents at Cupertino, a town of the Salentines in the diocese of Nardo, in the year of salvation one thousand six hundred and three. Prevented with the love of God, he spent his boyhood and youth in the greatest simplicity and innocence. The Virgin Mother of God delivered him from a long and painful malady, which he had borne with the greatest patience; whereupon he devoted himself entirely to works of piety and the practice of virtue. But God called him to something higher; and in order to attain to closer union with him, Joseph determined to enter the Seraphic Order. After several trials he obtained his desire, and was admitted among the Minor Conventuals in the convent called Grotella, first as a lay-brother, on account of his lack of learning; but afterwards, God so disposing, he was raised to the rank of a cleric. After making his solemn vows he was ordained priest, and began a new life of greater perfection. Utterly renouncing all earthly affections and everything of this world almost to the very necessaries of life, he afflicted his body with hairshirts, chains, disciplines, and every kind of austerity and penance; while he assiduously nourished his spirit with the sweetness of holy prayer, and the highest contemplation. By this means, the love of God, which had been poured out in his heart from his childhood, daily increased in a most wonderful manner.
His burning charity shone forth most remarkably in the sweet ecstasies which raised his soul to God, and the wonderful ruptures he frequently experienced. Yet, marvellous to tell, however rapt he was in God, obedience would immediately recall him to the use of his senses. He was exceedingly zealous in the practice of obedience; and used to say that he was led by it like a blind man, and that he would rather die than disobey. He emulated the poverty of the seraphic patriarch to such a degree, that on his deathbed he could truthfully tell his superior he had nothing which, according to custom, he could relinquish. Thus dead to the world and to himself Joseph showed forth in his flesh the life of Jesus. While in others he perceived the vice of impurity by an evil odour, his own body exhaled a most sweet fragrance, a sign of the spotless purity which he preserved unsullied in spite of long and violent temptations from the devil. This victory he gained by strict custody of his senses, by continual mortification of the body, and especially by the protection of the most pure Virgin Mary, whom he called his Mother, and whom he venerated with tenderest affection as the sweetest of mothers, desiring to see her venerated by others, that they might, said he, together with her patronage gain all good things.
Blessed Joseph’s solicitude in this respect sprang from his love for his neighbour, for he was consumed with zeal for souls, urging him to seek the salvation of all. His love embraced the poor, the sick, and all in affliction, whom he comforted as far as lay in his power, not excluding those who pursued him with reproaches and insults, and every kind of injury. He bore all this with the same patience, sweetness, and cheerfulness of countenance as were remarked in him when he was obliged frequently to change his residence, by the command of the superiors of his Order, or of the holy Inquisition. People and princes admired his wonderful holiness and heavenly gifts; yet, such was his humility, that, thinking himself a great sinner, he earnestly besought God to remove from him his admirable gifts: while he begged men to cast his body after death in a place where his memory might utterly perish. But God, who exalts the humble, and who had richly adorned his servant during life with heavenly wisdom, prophecy, the reading of hearts, the grace of healing, and other gifts, also rendered his death precious and his sepulchre glorious. Joseph died at the place and time he had foretold, namely, at Osimo in Picenum, in the sixty-first year of his age. He was famous for miracles after his death; and was enrolled among the blessed by Benedict XIV and among the saints by Clement XIII. Clement XIV, who was of the same Order, extended his Office and Mass to the universal Church.
Life of St. Joseph of Cupertino
Joseph Desa was born the 17th of June, 1603, at Cupertino, a small village of the diocess of Nardo, between Brindsi and Otranto, six miles from the coast of the gulf of Tarento. His parents were poor, but virtuous. His mother brought him up in great sentiments of piety; but treated him with great severity, punishing him frequently for the least fault, to inure him to an austere and penitential life. He was very attentive to the divine service, and in an age when the love of pleasure is generally predominant, he wore a hair shirt, and mortified his body by divers austerities. He was bound apprentice to a shoemaker, which trade he applied himself to for some time.
When he was seventeen years of age he presented himself to be received amongst the Conventual Franciscans, where he had two uncles of distinction in the Order. He was nevertheless refused because he had not made his studies. All he could obtain was to be received amongst the Capuchins in quality of lay-brother; but after eight months he was dismissed as unequal to the duties of the Order. Far from being discouraged he persisted in his resolution of embracing a religious state. At length the Franciscans, moved with compassion, received him into their convent of Grotella, thus called from a subterraneous chapel dedicated to God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin. This convent was situated near Cupertino. The saint having finished his novitiate with great fervour, he made his vows, and was received as lay-brother amongst the Oblates of the Third Order.
Joseph begged to go through a second novitiate, after which he separated himself more than ever from the company of men, to unite himself more closely to God by prayer and contemplation. He looked upon himself as a great sinner, and imagined it was through mere charity that the religious habit was given him. His patience made him bear in silence and with joy the severest rebukes for faults which he had not committed: and his obedience was such that he executed without delay the most difficult duties enjoined him. So many virtues rendered him the object of universal admiration. Being ordained priest in 1628, he celebrated his first mass with inexpressible sentiments of faith, of love, and respect.
After having received the priesthood he passed five years without tasting bread or wine; during which time he lived only on herbs and dry fruits; and even the herbs that he ate on Fridays were so distasteful that only himself could use them. His fast in Lent was so rigorous that for seven years he took no nourishment but on Thursdays and Sundays, except the holy Eucharist which he received every day. His countenance in the morning was extremely pale, but after the communion it became florid and lively. He had contracted such an habit of fasting, that his stomach could no longer bear any food. His desire of mortification made him invent different instruments of penance. During two years he suffered many interior trials which tormented him exceedingly; but to this storm a profound calm succeeded.
A report being spread that he had frequent raptures, and that many miracles were wrought by him, the people followed him in crowds as he was travelling through the province of Bari. A certain vicar-general was offended at it, and carried his complaints to the inquisitors of Naples. Joseph was ordered to appear; but the heads of his accusation being examined, he was declared innocent, and dismissed. He said mass at Naples in the Church of St. Gregory the Armenian, which belonged to a monastery of religious. The holy sacrifice being finished, he fell into an ecstasy, as many eye-witnesses attested in the process of his canonization. The inquisitors sent him to Rome to his general, who received him with harshness, and ordered him to retire to the convent of Assisium. Joseph was filled with joy at this news, on account of the great devotion he had to the holy founder of his Order. The guardian of Assisium treated him also with roughness. But his sanctity shone forth more and more; and persons of the highest distinction expressed an ardent desire to see him. He arrived at Assisium in 1639, and remained there thirteen years. At first he suffered many trials both interior and exterior. His superior often called him hypocrite, and treated him with great rigour. On the other hand, God seemed to have abandoned him; his religious exercises were accompanied with a spiritual dryness that afflicted him exceedingly; the impure phantoms which his imagination represented to him, joined to the most terrible temptations, cast him into so deep a melancholy, that he scarce dare lift up his eyes. His general being informed of his situation, called him to Rome, and having kept him there three weeks, he sent him back to his convent of Assisium.
The saint, on his way to Rome, experienced a return of those heavenly consolations which had been withdrawn from him. At the name of God, of Jesus, or of Mary, he was, as it were, out of himself. He would often cry out, “Vouchsafe, O my God, to fill and possess all my heart. Oh that my soul was freed from the chains of the body, and united to Jesus Christ! Jesus, Jesus, draw me to yourself; I am not able to live any longer on the earth.” He was often heard to excite others to the love of God, and to say to them, “Love God; he in whom this love reigns, is rich although he does not perceive it.” His raptures were as frequent as extraordinary. He had many, even in public, to which a great number of persons of the first quality were eye-witnesses, and the truth of which they afterwards declared upon oath. Amongst those, John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick and Hanover, was one. This prince, who was a Lutheran, was so struck with what he had seen, that he abjured his former tenets and embraced the Catholic faith. Joseph had also a singular talent for converting the most obdurate sinners, and quieting the minds of such as laboured under any trouble. He used to say to some scrupulous persons who came to consult him, “I neither like scruples nor melancholy; let your intention be right, and fear not.” He explained the most profound mysteries of our faith with the greatest clearness; and this sublime knowledge he owed to the intimate communication he had with God in prayer.
His miracles were not less remarkable than the other extraordinary favours he received from God. Many sick owed their recovery to his prayers. The saint falling sick of a fever at Osimo, the 10th of August, 1663, foretold that his last hour was near at hand. The day before his death he received the holy viaticum, and after it the extreme unction. He was heard often to repeat those aspirations of a heart inflamed with the love of God: “Oh that my soul was freed from the shackles of my body, to be reunited with Jesus Christ! Praise and thanksgiving be to God! The will of God be done. Jesus crucified, receive my heart, and kindle in it the fire of your holy love.” He died the 18th of September, 1663, at the age of sixty years and three months. His body was exposed in the church, and the whole town came to visit it with respect; he was afterwards buried in the chapel of the Conception. The heroism of his virtues being proved, and the truth of his miracles attested, he was beatified by Benedict XIV in 1753, and canonized by Clement XIII, in 1767. Clement XIV inserted his office in the Roman Breviary.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us.