Joseph of Cupertino

Joseph of Cupertino

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Joseph of Cupertino
birth_date=birth date|1603|6|17|mf=y
death_date=death date and age|1663|9|18|1603|6|17|mf=y
feast_day=September 18
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church

caption="Saint Joseph of Cupertino" Image from Paul Guerrin, "Les Petites Bollandistes: Vies de Saints," 1882
birth_place=Copertino, Puglia, Kingdom of Naples
death_place=Osimo, Marche, Papal States
beatified_date=February 24, 1753
beatified_by=Pope Benedict XIV
canonized_date=July 16, 1767
canonized_by=Pope Clement XIII
attributes=Levitation, Crucifix, Franciscan habit
patronage= Aviation, astronauts, mental handicaps, test taking, students
suppressed_date=1969 (Restricted to local calendars)

Saint Joseph of Cupertino ( _it. San Giuseppe da Copertino), (June 17, 1603 – September 18, 1663) is an Italian saint. He was said to have been remarkably unclever, but prone to miraculous levitation and intense ecstatic visions that left him gaping. ["Saint Joseph of Copertino," Fr. Angelo Pastrovicchi, O.M.C., TAN Books and Publishers, 1980, p. iii] In turn, he is recognized as the patron saint of air travelers, aviators, astronauts, people with a mental handicap, test takers, and weak students. He was canonized in the year 1767.

Early life

Joseph was born Giuseppe Maria Desa in Cupertino, Apulia. ["Saint Joseph Cupertino," p. 1]

His father, Felice (Felix) Desa, was a carpenter in the village of Cupertino, located in the heel of the boot of Italy, on the Apulian peninsula within the then Kingdom of Naples. ["Saint Joseph Copertino," p. 1] Known locally as a charitable man, he often guaranteed the debts of his poorer neighbors, often driving himself into debt as a result. Felix died prior to Joseph's birth, leaving his wife Francesca Panara destitute and pregnant with the future saint.

As a child, Joseph was a remarkably slow witted. He loved God a lot and built an altar. This was where he prayed the rosary. He suffered from painful ulcers during his childhood. After a hermit applied oil from the lamp burning before a picture of Our Lady of Grace, Joseph was completely cured from his painful ulcers. ["Saint Joseph Copertino"] He was given the pejorative nickname "the Gaper," due to his habit of staring blankly into space. He was also said to have had a violent temper.


When he was 17, Joseph attempted to join the Friars Minor Conventuals, but his lack of education prevented him from gaining admittance. He was soon after admitted as a Capuchin, but removed from the organization shortly thereafter when his constant fits of ecstasy proved him unsuitable. Eventually, in his early twenties, he was admitted into a Franciscan friary near Cupertino. He had a learning disability, and legend has it that he would study intently for one small section of the material, because that was all he was able to do, and prayed that the material he studied would be what he was tested on. For example, one time when the friar administered a test, he happened to ask the one question Joseph had prepared for.

According to believers, Joseph could barely read or write, but continued to grow in holiness and wisdom, leading a life of poverty and prayer. He was unsuited for scholarship, but could answer intricate questions. He also performed menial tasks around the friary, such as gardening, looking after the animals, cleaning their stalls, and helping in the kitchen. Joseph was also often found wandering in a daze, winding up in different places in the friary unaware of how he got there.

Ecstasies, flights, and other gifts

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 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.

Joseph gave off a sweet odor smell because he was pure. Joseph could also smell the bad odor of a sinful person. When they would come, sometimes he would tell them that they stink and that they should go wash themselves. By this, he meant for them to go to confession.

Other miracles

Among other paranormal events associated with 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.

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. When asked to pray for his own healing he said, "No, God forbid!" ["St Joseph Copertino," p. 113] He experienced ecstasies and flights during his last mass which was on the Feast of the Assumption.Pastrovicchi, p. 113.] 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, astronauts, and is the patron saint of pilots who fly for the NATO Alliance. He is also the patron of those undergoing examinations of any kind. Fact|date=November 2007 He is known as a patron saint of students, having struggled with being a poor student himself.

Like the many places he touched in Italy, his name has touched California through a town named after him: Cupertino, California, which is 50 miles south of San Francisco. It was naturally fitting that in 1978, the Province of Conventual Franciscans in California adopted him as their patron. Interestingly, Cupertino, California's, public schools are among the highest ranked academically in the state of California. One grammar school, Faria, is the very highest ranked in the state. St Joseph of Cupertino Church is the Catholic parish in Cupertino, California. A life-sized bronze statue of St. Joseph in mid-flight was installed in the church prayer garden in 2008. The area where the city of Cupertino, California, is today was first named in honor of St. Joseph of Cupertino on March 25, 1776, when Spanish explorers under Captain Juan Bautista de Anza camped in the area and named a small river for the Italian saint. The river is today known as Stevens Creek. Cupertino, California, is also the headquarters of Apple Computer and other computer companies. Some consider the city of Cupertino to be the middle or heart of Silicon Valley.


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 "Lex 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. Putnam's Sons (hard cover), New York. ISBN (hardcover): 0-399-20714-7. ISBN (soft cover, large format): 0-399-20741-4.

ee also

*Flying Saints


*"Saint Joseph Copertino," Father Angelo Pastrovicchi, O.M.C., TAN Books and Publishers, 1980, ISBN 0-89555-135-7

External links

* [ Essay from "Saints for Sinners"]
* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Joseph of Cupertino"]
* [ Joseph of Cupertino]
* [ "St Joseph of Cupertino"]

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