Friday, 23 March 2012

Joseph of Cupertino: The Flying Saint

St Joseph in flight 18th century painting by Ludovico Mazzanti

Saints are something that fascinate me. One time ordinary people who decide, in a variety of ways to dedicate their lives to their faith, and then become a person held up by the Church and that we ask to intercede our prayers.

There are, however, some quite peculiar saints. A good friend of mine is always finding such interesting characters for me, from his home in New York, trying to inspire 'different' kind of lessons. Unfortunately they don't often quite fit into the syllabus... but I thought the blog was a perfect place to write about a few of them.

Today, we begin with Joseph of Cupertino.

Saint Joseph was born on June 17th 1603 in Italy. He lived a holy life as a 'remarkebly unclever' Franciscan friar in Italy. He died, aged 60, on September 18th 1663. This is now his feast day and St Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of aviation, astronauts, mental handicaps, test taking, students. He may well be one to ask to intercede as the exam season approaches...

Why is he so remarkable though?

"On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Joseph was assisting in the procession when he suddenly soared into the sky, where he remained hovering over the crowd. When he descended and realised 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"."

There were many subsequent flights, and indeed upon hearing the names of Jesus, or Mary, singing hymns or praying at Mass, he would enter a dazed state and soar into the air! St Joseph remained there until a superior would command him to return to earth.

He even went flying when meeting Pope Urban VIII! He went down to kiss the Pope's feet but was then lifted into the air. He again, could only return when commanded by the Minister General of his Order.

It is reported he also healed a girl suffering from a severe case of measles with prayer and another caused rain for a community suffering from drought, again by prayer.

He life ended up not being easy. He was effectively a celebrity and people demanded his time, miracles and favours. He spent time locked up, being questioned and even exiled.

Preserved body of St. Joseph of Cupertino - at the Basillica of St. Joseph of Cupertino

What do we make of saints such as St Joseph of Cupertino today? Is it not hard to believe such tales of levitation? Could their be some kind of more rational explanation, and if so, is St Joseph worthy of his beatification? For Catholics, a community of faith, there is always the miraculous and unexplainable - does that make such tales acceptable?

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