The flying saint

Today Franciscans celebrate St. Joseph Cupertino, an Italian Conventual Franciscan friar of the seventeenth century, who died on September 18, 1663 – three hundred and fifty years ago today.

He is known as the flying saint because he often levitated when he experienced a deep sense of God’s presence, which was often. He is thus the patron saint of aviators.

But his levitation was not a gift he sought and it caused him suffering, at the hands of his own friars who forbade him to say Mass in public for many years and at the hands of the Inquisition who, at one point, forced him to live in near solitude for four years with the Capuchins, another branch of the Franciscans.

Whoever wrote the prayer for his Mass must have had a sense of humor, since it begins with a reference to John 12:32:

God, our Father, your wisdom disposed that your only-begotten Son, when lifted above the earth, should draw all things to himself…

But what is extraordinary about St. Joseph was how God worked in him. He seems to have been absent-minded as a child and youth and was nicknamed the gaper, the open mouthed – Boccaperto.

He also had great difficulty with his studies. He only passed one examination on his way to the priesthood because the exam question was on one of the few scriptural quotations he knew. He only got ordained when the bishop suspended the final examination for all the candidates for priesthood. St. Joseph Cupertino is thus the patron saint of students.

St. Joseph Cupertino shows us that God chooses the most unlikely people to manifest his love to the world.

So we need not worry, God chooses the weak of the world to confound the strong, so that God’s power may be shown (1 Corinthians 1: 27).

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