John Joseph of the Cross, St.
JOHN JOSEPH OF THE CROSS, ST.
Religious; b. Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, Aug. 15, 1654; d. Naples, March 5, 1734. Leaving his well-to-do parents at the age of 16, John Joseph became the first Italian to join the Alcantarines, a strict reform group within the Franciscan Order newly introduced into Italy by friars from Spain. When only 21 years old, he was entrusted with the building of a new house of the reform at Piedimonte di Alife. It was only under obedience that he received Holy Orders in 1677. After his ordination to the priesthood he was appointed master of novices. In this office he showed himself unusually gifted in the art of spiritual direction, and throughout his life he was much sought after as a confessor. He served two terms as guardian, and when the first Alcantarine province was erected in Italy in 1702, he was chosen to head it. He successfully guided the new province through its first stormy years, when disputes between the Spanish and Italian factions within the reform movement threatened the very existence of the Alcantarines in Italy.
John Joseph vigorously embraced the almost repellent austerities that typified the Alcantarine reform in its early days and sought to emulate in every detail the life and virtues of St. Peter of Alcántara, its founder. He wore a number of spiked crosses under his rough habit, scourged himself daily, and for the last 30 years of his life abstained from all liquids. He died at the friary of Santa Lucia del Monte. He was buried there, and his tomb immediately became a place of popular pilgrimage. He was beatified by Pius VI in 1789 and canonized by Gregory XVI in 1839.
Feast: March 5.
Bibliography: diodata del'assunta, … Vita di B. Gio Guiseppe della Croce (Naples 1789). lÉon de clary, Lives of the Saints and Blessed of the Three Orders of St. Francis, 4 v. (Taunton, Eng. 1885–87) 1:349–368. a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, rev. ed. h. thurston and d. attwater (New York 1956) 1:490–493.