A Misjudged Saint

Saint Joseph of Cupertino

Feast Day: 18th September

Joseph Desa led a difficult and lonely life, often unwanted and rejected, but God certainty wanted him and used him to bring healing and encouragement to many people.

Born in a small Italian village, in 1603, into a poor family, his father died when he was young and his mother brought him up very strictly. He would wander absent-mindedly around the village and his quick temper made him unpopular, but from a very early age he practised his religion with great attention and love.

After being apprenticed to a shoemaker he applied, aged 17, to join the Conventual Franciscans: they refused to admit him because his education was not up to the required standard, but agreed to him being a lay brother. After only eight months he was dismissed because he was incapable of carrying out his duties.

His mother persuaded her brother, a Conventual Franciscan, to have Joseph admitted to another friary where he was put to work in the stables. This humble job seems to have brought about a change in his life. He began to work carefully and efficiently and he was much admired for his humility and his love of mortification and penance. Eventually his superiors allowed him to begin his novitiate and study for the priesthood. He still found studying a struggle but he was patient, obedient, devoted to prayer and extremely anxious to prove himself worthy of the opportunity he had been given.

From the time of his ordination, aged 25, Joseph began to experience ecstasies and supernatural phenomena, including levitation. These incidents were part of Joseph's daily life, but they were so disturbing to the rest of the community that for 35 years he was forbidden to celebrate Mass in public, to attend choir, or to take his meals with his brethren.

Joseph's unusual gifts soon became known beyond the friary and his superiors sent him to Rome to be examined, first by the minister general and then by the pope, Urban VIll. Joseph went into ecstasy in the presence of the pope, who declared that he had witnessed a miracle. It was decided that Joseph should be sent to Assisi, and he stayed there for the next 13 years. Once again, he was treated unsympathetically. He must have felt isolated, yet the more his brethren rejected him the more spiritual consolation he received from God. The ecstasies continued and inspired many conversions and healings.

In 1653, still under official disapproval, Joseph was sent to a remote Capuchin friary to live in strict seclusion. His whereabouts were soon discovered and pilgrims flocked to see him, so he was transferred to another Capuchin house. The rest of his life was spent virtually imprisoned with only selected religious to visit him in his cell. He died, aged 60, on 18 September 1663.

Joseph of Cupertino is often invoked for help in passing examinations. He lacked intellectual ability but he strove to overcome his difficulties and succeeded through perseverance and determination. He understands the plight of those who find study a struggle! We pray that he may be an inspiration to all students. He is also an example of patience and dignity. He was scorned and misunderstood by so many of his fellow religious, who failed to recognise the gift of ecstatic prayer that God gave him, but Joseph never became bitter, he simply grew closer and closer to God. If the God-given gifts that we have are not recognised, we may feel hurt and rejected, but this should not deter us from using them. Like Saint Joseph of Cupertino we must never stop trying.