Joseph of Cupertino, St.

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Conventual Franciscan friar whose ecstatic flights earned him the title the "flying friar"; b. Cupertino (Lecce), June 17, 1603; d. Osimo, Sept. 18, 1663. He desired religious life and entered the Capuchin Order as a lay brother but was dismissed. His mother appealed to two uncles, both Conventuals, who brought him into their order as a tertiary. His simplicity and obedience won him acceptance to the clerical state in 1625. Despite his poor progress in theological studies, he was ordained in 1628. Joseph was sent to Grotella, where his life of miracles and ecstasies began. For ten years the surrounding countryside witnessed the wonders of this friar. Authorities tried to hide him and forbade his presence at public office and the gatherings of the friars. He was denounced to the Inquisition at Naples in 1638, freed after three examinations, but sent to his general in Rome. Here he was taken to visit Pope urban viii. At the sight of the Holy Father, Joseph went into ecstasy and rose from the ground till the command of his general called him to his senses. He was assigned to the Sacro Convento, Assisi, where the mystic phenomena ceased. Two years later, the ecstasies returned. His fame soon spread beyond Italy and pilgrims came to witness his ecstatic flights. One group, including the Spanish ambassador, saw him take flight over their heads to the high altar. The Duke of Brunswick, a Lutheran, became a Catholic after twice witnessing Joseph in ecstasies at Mass. Pope innocent x ordered Joseph into retirement with the Capuchins at Pietrarubbia and later at Fossombrone. In 1657 Pope alexander vii allowed him to return to the Conventuals at Osimo. He spent the remainder of his life in seclusion. He was beatified by Benedict XIV in 1753, and canonized by Clement XIII on July 16, 1767.

Feast: Sept. 18.

Bibliography: g. parisciani, L'inquisizione e il caso S. Guiseppe da Copertino: Con appendice di documenti inediti (Padua 1996). h. thurston, The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism, ed. j. h. crehan (London 1952).

[r. j. bartman]