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1603 - 1663 A.D. - The Odd Life and Gifts of Joseph of Cupertino



   It is wise not to believe outrageous sounding claims.  It's only common sense.  They too often show themselves to be lies, misunderstandings, purposeful misleadings, hoaxes......many things, but not the truth.  But where it comes to miracles accomplished through God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit then you have to allow that sometimes what seems impossible is never the less true.  God (for whom nothing is impossible) might have decided to do something amazing to remind people of Who it is that they worship.  God does what He does, with none to stop Him.  God invented the Creation....when He decides to bend it's governing rules it does not hesitate to obey Him.  God made the Creation, God made the rules. 

 Can there be religious hoaxes?  Yes.  But when an impossible miracle occurs dozens of times in front of great crowds of witnesses....well, you can only remain skeptical for so long before you have crossed over into 'determined refusal to give due credit to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit'.  Such seems to be the case with Joseph of Cupertino, who sometimes could the air....inside churches, or outside above crowds and sometimes into trees and up into the air in front of the Pope and into flower displays and arrays of votive candles and....well, you probably get the picture.  His story is amazing, but it was widely witnessed. 

  According to good sized crowds of witnesses on many occasions, Joseph of Cupertino was at times given the gift of flight during fits of ectasy.  And what might cause a fit of ectasy in this man?  Sometimes no more than hearing the name of Jesus.  Or Mary.  Or meeting the Pope.  Or talking with another monk about the beauty of a monastery garden.  He would be overtaken with emotion, let out an ecstatic yelp, and up he went as everyone watched.  He rose and hovered and then there he would be, suspended above them, in a trance with his gaze locked upon the heavens.  It is said that his robes and clothing did not become disarrayed, though at least once his sandals fell off.  Sometimes he returned to conscious awareness on his own, other times his superiors had to call to him until they got his attention, and then he would float back down. 

  It is a truly amazing case.  But then, even from birth Giuseppe of Cupertino was no normal person! 

  It was in 1603 A.D. that Joseph was born.  That is not medieval times.  By the time he was 17 years old the Pilgrims would be settling into their American colony.  Columbus had discovered the New World more than 110 years before Joseph was born.  So his story is not some murky myth from the deep dark depths of the ancient past - his is a relatively recent life.  His home was in the portion of Italy that is like the heel of the boot, which was then known as the Kingdom of Naples.  (People say Italy is shaped like a boot, and if you look at the map it's easy to see why.)  Some sources say he was delivered in a barn, somewhat like Jesus.  His father had been a carpenter, also like Jesus, but apparently there were business problems, and he had moved his family away from town to escape creditors.  Even so, Joseph's father was known as a charitable man that took joy in helping the poor when he could.  But he died before Joseph was delivered. 

  Young Joseph seemed from his childhood onward to be very fond of church and very enamored of Jesus.  As a child, he even made an alter in one corner of the room and liked to pray there.  But unfortunately Joseph also showed signs of serious learning disabilities from his earliest years.  He had a terrible temper at times, and he was given to fits of rage. And sometimes he went into states of obliviousness to his surroundings as he considered holy things, or other things.  He learned things very slowly, and did not understand things that he read very easily.  He had some serious issues.  When young, he even suffered with some internal problems that were quite serious, but it is said that a Christian healer applied some oil that he kept, from a special chapel lamp.....blessed annointing oil....and Giuseppe was soon cured.  Perhaps this was part of why he had strong faith so early in his life.   

  Though his widowed mother was not rich there were local schools for which Joseph qualified, and which he attended.  There at school he was picked on by his school mates for his odd ways.  Sometimes he would just sit there, looking upwards with his jaw hanging open and his eyes glazed, unaware of anything going on aroung him, it was said.  The claim was made that his eyes didn't blink at such times, even when flies walked around on his exposed eyeballs.  His peers came up with a nick-name for him; he was known as Bocca Apperta, 'gaping mouth', or some sources just say 'the Gaper', though in Italian, of course. 

  The school years may have been hard, but Joseph knew his mind concerning his future.  He wanted to be a friar and a priest.  He wanted to serve God.  At the age of 17 he was accepted into a Capuchin order, and began working as a prospective brother in a monastery.  But even there, his intellectual weaknesses and problems he had with paying attention came to the notice of his brother monks quickly.  If they had him work in the garden, he would become lost in thought and they would see him just standing there.  If he worked in the kitchen, he broke so many dishes that it was a problem.  He burst forth with noisy yelps and shrieks at odd times, such as during choir or church mass because he got so excited doing the things of God that it just overcame him. 

  He felt terrible about these failings....he apparently wore chunks of the jagged pottery from the dishes that he broke around his neck as a show of contrition and self prescribed pennance.  But even so, he just didn't seem to be cut out for the life of a monk in the opinion of the brothers in that order, and after 8 months of his trying to do better they told him that it wasn't working out and that he needed to leave.

  Luckily he offered himself to another monastery - the Franciscan Convent of La Grotella - and was soon accepted.  He had a second chance!  At first he worked in their stables - not a sought after job - but he did find that he loved animals. (It would be noted, later in his life, that when he knelt in prayer around animals they would flock around him, seemingly drawn to his spirit.)  He adopted a new name in Jesus:  in time he became Friar Joseph Maria.  He was still different than others though.  He wore a rough hair shirt to irritate his skin, he went barefoot.  He wore an iron chain around his waist.  He tried to master the feelings, sensations, and passions of his flesh, which was not an unknown undertaking in that time.  But Giuseppe Desa took it very seriously. 

  Even his diet was severe...he allowed himself only coarse and simple vegetarian foods according to some who wrote of him.  He frequently ate dried fruit and beans, he stuck with small meals, he even was said to sprinkle a bitter powder on his food to make it less savory. The other friars couldn't stand to eat it.  It was another way of punishing his flesh. He even whipped himself with a much that the order took it away from him.  He would refer to himself in conversation as 'the Ass', meaning a donkey.  It was all to help him stay humble, to share in the physical sufferings of Christ.

  His life was a difficult one in that he did have the uncontrollable outbursts still, during choir, while doing his work, during church services, etc.  It is hard to say what medical diagnosis he might receive in our present age.  It is said that sometimes he would be found wandering on the grounds of the monastery, having forgotten what chore he had been assigned, and not sure where he was.  Sometimes he could not recognize familiar people.  But at other times he was more functional. 

  His order sent him to be examined by the Holy Office - the Inquisiton - to see what was causing his shrieks and outbursts and to be sure that they were not of an unholy nature.  He appeared before them 3 times, but they found no great fault with him, and allowed him to return and to continue saying Masses.  He had become a Priest.

  He had to become a Deacon and then a Priest, in fact.  Through God he managed to acheive both.  On the first occasion he studied a certain scripture from among many, and prayed that any questions that he was asked would pertain to that.  They did.  It turned out to be the one he was asked about, and then he was asked to explain a passage about 'Blessed is the womb that bore you.' from the scripture, and the Bishop found that his answer showed good understanding of the deeper meanings of the passage, so he obtained the title of Deacon.  

  Later, on another occasion, when preparing to be questioned to see if he could attain to being a Priest, he was in a group of people aspiring to the post.  The Bishop examining them found the first 3 candidates that he questioned to have such good understanding that he was quite pleased and just approved the whole group.  Giuseppe had not even needed to answer a question!  Now he was a Priest, that coming in the year 1628.

  Then came the big change in his life.  In 1630, while assisting in a holy procession through the town of Cupertino - for a feast day honoring St. Francis of Assisi - when in his state of spiritual excitement he suddenly did what a man could not do.  He suddenly soared upwards and he hovered over the heads of the gathered witnesses in the crowd - he was in the air above the town's people while lost in one of his ecstatic states, and the witnesses were numerous.  When he finally descended and alighted on the ground he was fully as surprised as the crowd, and embarassed and confused.  He actually took off running, not to his monastery, but to the home of his mother who lived not too far away.  Joseph had accomplished his first flight! 

  It wouldn't be his last.  Soon he had another while in church.  One day while praying he let out a cry and rose, floating forward with his arms outstretched as if he was on a cross. He actually came to light on an alter covered with flowers and burning candles, but his nearly weightless body caused no damage and his clothing did not catch fire.  Then he arose from there and returned to his previous position, crying and singing as he alighted back down.

  These episodes continued.  The Pope heard of them and was greatly interested.  And they weren't especially far away.  Giuseppe was summoned to meet the Pope and when the time for his audience came he was very excited to meet Christ's vicar on earth, (in this case, Pope Urban the VIII) and so he bent to kiss the man's feet and that's when it happened again.  In front of the Pope and those church officials also present, Giuseppe rose upwards off of the floor in one of his trances, which very greatly impressed the Pope.  The Pope reassigned Giuseppe to Assisi.

Joseph was summoned to Pope Urban VIII's court.  The Pope had heard of his gift.  Though Joseph couldn't just fly at will, the excitement of seeing the Pope was enough to cause him to fly that day!




  But at Assisi, rather than being excited to have the only flying Priest on Earth most likely, they were in fact suspicious of this gift.  His superiors there found it questionable in origin, though the Pope had not found fault with it.  It was made clear to Giuseppe that while he was with them, they did not care to see any flights.  He was, in fact, kept sequestered for approximately 2 years, out of sight and not often allowed to join the other men of this Assisi monastery in normal activities.  He took his meals alone and lived mostly in isolation, accepting the opinion of his superiors there that something was wrong with him, and that this new gift of flight was not a good one.

  When word reached the men of his original order in Cupertino of how he was being treated at Assisi they complained to the Pope.  (The Pope had appparently been unaware.)  They called Giuseppe back to Rome and restored his confidence in his gift from God.  After a time, they had him return to Assisi, where he was given a very warm welcome (what makes the Pope happy will make them happy also, I guess).  When he was brought into the church there, he looked up at a painting of Mary on the ceiling, and cried out something to the affect that 'she had followed him back here!' and with a shreik, he rose 15 feet into the air and stayed there for a time.  His gift was still with him, and this time the orders were in force:  it was not to be quenched. 

  From that point on he flew on various occasions, sometimes witnessed by many.  While visiting a sick man at his home he flew in front of those gathered there.  Another time, while walking in the monastery garden with another monk, they began talking about how beautiful God's garden was, and Giuseppe became spiritually excited and suddenly flew upwards into an olive tree, like a bird.  The branch he came to light on was thin, yet it barely bent under his weight it was later reported.  But, when Giuseppe came back to his normal frame of mind he was afraid to be so high up in a tree.  He grasped nearby branches in a bit of a panic, and it was necessary to rescue him with a ladder. 

  He became a very well know figure and great crowd came expectantly to the church services to see if they might be luck enough to glimpse this great miracle of a man flying.  They were sometimes gratified in their quest.  Crowd enthusiasm became a problem sometimes. At Pietria Rubia when the church became full there were attempts to remove roof tiles to gain a view.  Sometimes famous people of the day travelled far to attend one of Giuseppe's masses.  One man at least is known to have cast off Protestantism and converted to Catholicism upon twice seeing Giuseppe rise and float during the Masses.

  The gift of flight was not the only gift given to Giuseppe.  He could sometimes cause others that he was holding on to rise as well.  Once with a confessor that he was kneeling with this happened.  Another time he was praying for healing for a man that had gone mad - he was holding him - and they both rose for about 15 minutes into the air as Giuseppe spoke to him and prayed for him.  He was healed.

  He apparently was a tricky Priest to say your confession to.  If you neglected to list off all of your sins, he would help you out by bringing up some that you had apparently forgotten to mention.  Ooops!

  And, it was said that he was allowed, at times, the gift of increasing food.  That is an awesome gift!

  Though his fame became widespread, increasing the faith of many, he remained a humble man who struggled with difficulties all of his life.  Yet his gifts were self evident to all who witnessed them.  He was a man blessed by God.  Yet as with all flesh, he aged, and in 1663 he caught a late summer fever which he could not get rid of.  He struggled with it for a few weeks, then on Sept 17 he had an ecstatic state in which he rose from his sick bed and moved through the air to the stairs of the chapel, where it is said that he stated, "The Ass is beginning to ascend the mountain."  And on the following day he died. 

  It took about 100 years, but he was eventually made a Saint of the Catholic Church.  And so, this man of extremely unusual gifts had a life that allowed many to see the manifest power of God in yet another era and in the most unusual of ways.  It would not be the first time, and it would not be the last time that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would move mightily in a person's life, but will there ever be someone with Joseph's particular gifts again?  His is a story that increases faith greatly.  And it shows that you can be born with serious disabilities, yet still be greatly loved by the Lord, greatly blessed by the Lord, and greatly useful to others in this world.  All Praise To God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit who sometimes use the most fragile and humblest of people to display His might to the world.




    I personally believe that realizing how many great deeds of God have actually occurred through out history will lead some people to be saved giving their life to Christ.  If you agree, then please, take the time to be a 'missionary', to love your neighbor enough to care about their soul.  Please mention and recommend visiting the Deeds of God website on any social media sites that you belong to.  Tell a favorite account to your friends or family, and tell them where you read it.  To know God is to stand in awe of Him, but too few people know Him today.  Accounts like these are yet another way to come to know Jesus and the Holy Father, and the Spirit of Truth that helps us understand.  Thank you.  Dan Curry











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