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San Giuseppe da Copertino | by TRANCE  GATE
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San Giuseppe da Copertino

Saint Joseph of Cupertino( 1603 – 1663) is considered a flying saint canonized in 1767.


Ecstasies and flights


Eighteenth-century engraving of St. Joseph in flight.On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Legend holds that Joseph was assisting in the procession when he suddenly soared into the sky, where he remained hovering over the crowd. When he descended and realized what had happened, he became so embarrassed that he fled to his mother's house and hid. This was the first of many flights, which soon earned him the nickname "The Flying Saint."


Joseph's life changed dramatically after this incident. His flights continued and came with increasing frequency. His superiors, alarmed at his lack of control, forbade him from community exercises, believing he would cause too great a distraction for the friary. For the fact was, Joseph could not contain himself. On hearing the names of Jesus or Mary, the singing of hymns, during the feast of St. Francis, or while praying at Mass, he would go into dazed state and soar into the air, remaining there until a superior commanded him under obedience to revive.


Joseph's most famous flight allegedly occurred during a papal audience before Pope Urban VIII. When he bent down to kiss the Pope's feet, he was suddenly filled with reverence for Christ's Vicar on earth, and was lifted up into the air. Only when the Minister General of the Order, who was part of the audience, ordered him down was Joseph able to return to the floor.



Other miracles

Among other paranormal events associated with him, Joseph is said to have possessed the gift of healing. Legend holds he once cured a girl who was suffering from a severe case of measles. Another story holds that an entire community suffering from a drought asked Joseph to pray for rain, which he did with success.


He also dedicated himself to improving the spiritual lives of his fellow friars. When he accompanied his provincial on his visitations, Joseph would fall into ecstasy and inspire other friars to a greater evangelical perfection.


Consequences of fame

Not all of the friars whom Joseph lived with were well disposed towards him. Some superiors would scold Joseph for not accepting money and gifts offered to him for curing people, especially when they were members of the nobility. He would also find himself in trouble for returning home with a torn habit as a result of the people seeking relics who regarded him as a prophet and a saint.


Perhaps the most difficult time came when Joseph was the subject of an investigation by the Inquisition at Naples. Msgr. Joseph Palamolla accused Joseph of attracting undue attention with his "flights" and claiming to perform miracles. On October 21, 1638, Joseph was summoned to appear before the Inquisition and, when he arrived, he was detained for several weeks. Joseph was eventually released when the judges found no fault with him.


Life in exile

After being cleared by the Inquisition, Joseph was sent to the Sacro Convento in Assisi. Though Joseph was happy to be close to the tomb of St Francis, he experienced a certain spiritual dryness. His flights came to a halt during this period.


Two years after his arrival at the Sacro Convento, Joseph was made an honorary citizen of Assisi and a full member of the Franciscan community. He lived in Assisi for another nine years. During this period Joseph was sought after by people (including ministers general, provincials, bishops, cardinals, knights and secular princes) who wanted to experience his divine consolation. He was happy to oblige, but the isolation of exile left him repressed. Believers were able to seek him out, but he was not allowed to preach or hear confessions, nor to join in the processions and festivities of feast days.


Over time, Joseph attracted a huge following. To stay this, Pope Innocent X decided to move Joseph from Assisi and place him in a secret location under the jurisdiction of the Capuchin friars in Pietrarubbia. Joseph was placed under strict orders to avoid writing letters, but he continued to attract throngs of people. This soon forced him to be moved to another location, this time to Fossombrone, which had little more success.


The ordeal finally ended when Pope Innocent X died, and the Conventual friars asked the newly elected Pope Alexander VIII to release Joseph from his exile and return him to Assisi. Alexander declined, and instead released Joseph to the friary in Osimo, where the Pope's nephew was the local bishop. There, Joseph was ordered to live in seclusion and not speak to anyone except the Bishop, the Vicar General of the Order, his fellow friars, and, in case of a health crisis, a doctor. Joseph endured his ordeal with great patience. Legend states he did not even complain when a brother-cook neglected to bring him any food to his room for two days.


Final days and death

On August 10, 1663, Joseph became ill with a fever, but the experience filled him with joy, because, he said, he would soon be completely united with God. He supposedly experienced one last "flight" on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, while saying Mass.


In early September, Joseph could sense that the end was near, so he could be heard mumbling, "The jackass has now begun to climb the mountain!" The 'jackass' was his own body. After receiving the last sacraments, a papal blessing, and reciting the Litany of Our Lady, Joseph Desa of Cupertino died on the evening of September 18, 1663.


He was buried two days later in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception before great crowds of people.


Joseph was canonized on July 16, 1767 by Pope Clement XIII. In 1781, a large marble altar in the Church of St. Francis in Osimo was erected so that St. Joseph's body might be placed beneath it; it has remained there ever since.




Because of his many 'flights', St. Joseph is the patron saint of those traveling by air, and is the patron saint of pilots who fly for the NATO Alliance. In some countries, he is also the patron of those undergoing examinations of any kind.


Like the many places he touched in Italy, his name has touched California through a town named after him: Cupertino, California. It was naturally fitting that in 1978, the Province of Conventual Franciscans in California adopted him as their patron.




A film was made about St. Joseph of Cupertino entitled The Reluctant Saint starring actor Maximilian Schell.


A comic book, entitled The Flying Friar, was published by Speakeasy Comics in 2006, written by Rich Johnston, drawn by Thomas Nachlik, and edited by Tom Mauer. It is a fictionalization of the life of St. Joseph, albeit influenced heavily by the plotlines and characters of the Smallville TV series - St. Joseph is presented as a Clark Kent allegory, with his best friend turned worst enemy being the fictitious "Lux Luther," a supposed descendant of Martin Luther.


St. Joseph of Cupertino's story was made into a children's book called "The Little Friar Who Flew", written by Patricia Lee Gauch, pictures by Tomie de Paola. It was published in 1980 by Peppercorn Publishers (soft cover) and G. P.


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Taken on September 6, 2007