Q&A with Fr Flader: A great airborne saint

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The Miracle of St. Joseph of Cupertino by Giuseppe Nogari is displayed at the right side of the nave of the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Photo: Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The Miracle of St. Joseph of Cupertino by Giuseppe Nogari is displayed at the right side of the nave of the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Photo: Didier Descouens/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

A friend said St Joseph Cupertino was famous for flying, without an airplane of course. I found that hard to believe. Is this true and, in any case, who was this saint?

St Joseph was born in 1603 at Cupertino in the Region of Apulia, Italy.

When he was still a child, he began to experience visions while in ecstasy and these continued throughout his life.

Feeling drawn to the religious life, in 1620 he applied to the Conventual Franciscan friars but was rejected due to his lack of education.

He then applied to the Capuchin friars in Martino, near Taranto, and was accepted in 1620 as a lay brother.

But since his frequent ecstasies and a certain clumsiness made him unfit for the duties required of him, he was dismissed.

He then returned home, where his family treated him with scorn.

He pleaded with the Conventual friars near Cupertino to be allowed to work in their stables.

They accepted this and, after several years working there, he so impressed the friars with his devotion and simplicity of life that they admitted him to the Order.

After the necessary studies, with which he struggled, he was ordained a priest on 28 March 1628.

From then on his ecstasies increased and there are more than 70 accounts of people seeing him levitate, or rise up inexplicably from the floor, while participating in the Mass or praying the Divine Office with the community.

Hence his reputation for “flying”. St Joseph also became famous for his many miracles.

His last 35 years were lived in severe asceticism, usually consisting in eating solid food only twice a week and adding bitter powders to his meals.

St Joseph died on 18 September 1663 and was canonised in 1767.

Not so surprisingly, he is the patron saint of air travellers, pilots and the learning disabled.