Tuesday, September 18, 2012

St. Joseph Copertino, ecstatic.


St. Joseph was popular in life and now as a saint in part because of the extraordinary phenomena which characterized his devotion, thus he is often listed in some hagiographic profiles as an ecstatic.  Indeed, during his life he became something of a sideshow for the Franciscans, who tried to hide him away from public view.  I was fortunate enough (many years ago) to spend a week in solitary retreat in the apartments of St. Joseph, where he was 'imprisoned' in the Sacred Convent of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.  This may be one reason I feel especially close to the saint.  I also have a few first class relics of the saint. 

These days I commend to St. Joseph many of the people I used to make fun of in my life.  Joseph was born to very poor parents and he himself was considered to be slow - dumb - and was called the 'gaper'.  I went to school with a kid like that, his mouth hung open and he drooled all over his desk, he was shy and rather backward, but not mentally challenged.  Kids were mean to him - I just avoided him and sometimes teased girls that the boy had a crush on them.  So I was mean too.  There were others I regarded with similar disdain throughout my life as well.  What can I do now but pray and offer my own defects for them in penance?

St. Joseph became a stable boy for the Conventual Franciscans and matured to the point where he was admitted among the friars.  Later he was ordained - pretty much on account of his piety and the favor of a benevolent prelate.  His mystical life expressed itself in and through his priesthood and external manifestations of his intense devotion.  It's these which garner so much attention and fascination by those devoted to him, as well as the curious.

Nevertheless, his ecstasies and levitations, though captivating the imagination, point to a much deeper spiritual reality.  As John of the Cross states, "an ecstasy is nothing else than going out of self and being caught up in God; and this is what he who obeys does; he leaves himself and his desire, and thus unburdened plunges himself in God.  Hence, St. Joseph demonstrates the depth of his obedience, his complete and utter abandonment, surrender, to divine providence.  This extraordinary, heroic, and complete abandonment freed the saint from every encumbrance of sin, from every limitation of nature, suspending the natural senses and weight of the body, liberated from every disability, in a foretaste of heavenly existence.  Ardent, seraphic love inflamed and propelled the saint out of himself as it were... or so it seems to me.

I think St. Joseph is a wonderful patron for persons with disabilities, kids who are bullied and abused, and those with potential impediments to religious life and the priesthood, as well as a model and teacher for the simple.  St. Joseph demonstrates for us that nothing is impossible for God.

1 comment:

  1. He is also the patron of pilots because he would levitate when he was in ecstasy or when he became excited by spiritual matters!


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