“Pray to God: You are the Spirit, and I am only the trumpet, and, without your breath, I can give no sound.” ~ St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Joseph of Cupertino was quite the unlikely candidate for sainthood, gifted with just about nothing, disliked by his own parents, and terribly incompetent. That left him with nothing but a beautiful simplicity and a deep humility.

Born in 1603, in Cupertino, Italy, Joseph was born to a dirt-poor family. His father was so terrible with his money that Joseph was born in the makeshift shed in the back of the house, where his mother had hid out of embarrassment. And poor Joseph did not improve their situation.

A natural dunce, school did not come easily, or not at all. He was described as awkward, absent-minded, and nervous. He could barely hold a conversation and no one would give him the time of day. He had no friends; his family didn’t even like him. His own mother saw him as a burden, being forever at fault and the bane of her existence. But Joseph accepted everything. He found everyone’s frustrations with him apt and fitting, and did not challenge their insults.

Books being of no use to him, he attempted to be a shoemaker, but couldn’t catch the hang of that. After seeing a friar begging in the streets, he figured that was something he could do: beg. And that he did. He went from monastery to monastery, begging admittance, but no one would accept him. Finally, a monastery agreed to give him a trial period as a lay brother. He gave it his all, but their patience was only so thick. He would forget always, couldn’t learn a lick, and would kneel down and start praying in the most randomness of places, whether it was the garden, hallway, kitchen.

The monastery could only handle him for so long and, eventually, sent him off. Devastated, he wandered from place to place aimlessly, hoping something would present itself, something he could do, something that would fit for him. He went to his rich uncle’s, but was heartlessly rejected. Hopeless, he returned to his mother’s house, laid down at her feet in tears, and even she would have none of him. Thinking she was finally free of this burden, she angrily screamed and yelled about how he had brought shame and embarrassment to their family, not even being able to be a lay brother. He was a good-for-nothing bum, she said.

Eventually, through familial connections, she pleaded with the monastery to give him a second chance, as she could no longer deal with this burden. They relented, and the best they could do was employ him as a stable keeper and accept him into the Third Order.

However, over time, the friars were deeply moved by his humility, simplicity, and sanctity. He had nothing, both physically and mentally, yet maintained a lighthearted attitude and was always quick to laugh. He was happy and content with hay as a bed and cleaning stalls as a career.

Having a change of heart, they readmitted him back to the Order. Through a series of miraculous events, he successfully passed through the tests required and was ordained a priest. Although now a priest, his life remained much the same. He did the dirty work, the work no one else would do: washing the dishes, cleaning the corridors, etc.

One time, when construction was going on in the upper level, he would carry up the brick and mortar to the workers. When people protested, saying such work was not befitting of a priest, he replied, “What else can Brother Ass do?”

Soon, his holiness resulted in many miracles, the most famous being levitation. During mass, lost in prayer, he would levitate to the altar and be raised above it. In a way, witnesses said it appeared as though he were flying to the cross. Pricking him, hitting him, burning him, nothing could get him out of his holy trance. It would happen spontaneously, sometimes just the mention of God sending him into a levitating meditation.

He also formed a special relationship with animals, who he found he had more in common with. One day, after the local convent offered some alms for his begging efforts, he said he would send a bird to help them with their singing. And sure enough, every morning and night, a sparrow would come in and sing with them, just like a regular nun. But, after a while, one of the nuns gave the bird a little push with her hand, and it promptly flew away and never came back.

The next time Joseph came back to the convent, the nuns told them that the sparrow had stopped coming, but did not tell him why. He aptly responded, “He is gone, and quite right. He did not come to you to be insulted.” But he promised he would amend their relationship with the sparrow, and, soon, the sparrow returned daily for their singing.

Countless similar miracles and stories were had throughout his life, like during harvest time, when farmers did not show up to daily mass, the sheep and farm animals did! They came in and set themselves up in an orderly fashion, staying for the entire mass and leaving once it was done.

During the later half of his life, after gathering lots of attention from the locals, the higher-ups questioned his devoutness, and sent him away to live in more private monasteries, not telling anyone where, so as not to draw crowds. Eventually, people would find out and begin to flock, and he would have to be moved to another monastery.

He was kept in strict isolation and not allowed any outside contact with the world. This continued on for many, many years. His levitations continued throughout this time, becoming even more prevalent, so much so that he could never be allowed to return to normal activities, as it would cause distractions and disorder.

At the age of 60, he became ill. On his deathbed, someone nearby spoke to him about the love of God. Joseph yelled out, “Say that again! Say that again! Jesus. Praised be God! Blessed be God! May the holy will of God be done.” His face flushed with joy and his eyes danced with laughter. It affected a smile on all those around him, and thus he died, on September 18th, 1663.

He is the patron seat of air travelers, pilots, and the learning disabled.

Simplicity. Humility. Two virtues that St. Joseph of Cupertino emulated to the fullest extent, and two virtues which are so lacking in today’s age. We, who surround ourselves with so many things and inflate ourselves with pride in so many ways, can learn a lot from Joseph’s ways. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

May with live life with a lighthearted happiness as he did, being content with nothing and welcoming any trials God sends us. May we live a life of sanctifying simplicity. May we fly to the cross as Joseph did.