Saint Joseph of Cupertino (1603–1663)

Patron of students and those with learning difficulties

Giuseppe Maria Desa is a saint whose religious life seems to have been one continuous miracle — not only because of his charismata, which manifested God’s power to the faithful and converted many hearts, but also because of the ordinary action of sanctifying grace. It was the latter which transformed an apparently obstinate and bad-tempered neapolitan peasant, who seemed to be endowed with the very minimum of intellectual gifts, into a meek and joyful friar, armed with an invincible patience and humility — and even a certain erudition.

Rejected once from the Franciscan order, he was accepted as a servant in another friary, where his whole character underwent a mysterious conversion, characterised by a divine meekness which contrasted with the anger often elicited from those charged with instructing him. Despite his apparent inability to learn or remember anything, which did indeed make his instructors’ task rather thankless, and his slack-jawed and abent-minded mien (which did not make their task any easier), he was able recall the Gospel of St Luke through and through — a gift which he could apply to conveying the essential truths of the faith with simplicity and clarity to virtually anyone. This would prove to be the key to his success in clerical studies and, soon, to his ordination to the priesthood.

Thus did the least of the sons of St Francis surpass the brightest of his contemporaries — confounding all human wisdom with incontrovertibly well-documented miracles, such as his famous levitations and ecstasies, which led a Duke of Brunswick, upon first seeing the renowned friar, to abjure his lutheranism on the spot and re-enter into the one true fold.

The Church commemorates St Joseph of Cupertino the day after the Stigmata of St Francis of Assisi, his spiritual father. He is especially to be invoked when facing a difficult exam.

O God, under whose providence thy only-begotten Son was lifted up above the earth so that he might draw all things to Himself, accomplish Thy gracious purpose in us, and let the merits and example of Thy seraphic confessor Joseph help us to rise above all earthly desires and make our way into the presence of Him: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

Collect of the Mass of St Joseph of Cupertino (18 September)