Joseph of Cupertino was such an extraordinary saint that his fellow-Christians could scarcely cope with him. First of all he was forgetful, even as a child, often not turning up for the scanty meals his impoverished widowed mother prepared. He would wander about the village of Cupertino, Italy, where he was born, gazing open-mouthed at everything. He found it hard to learn. And he was clumsy.
When he was seventeen he decided he wanted to become a monk or friar. The Franciscans would not take him because, they said, he was too stupid. The Capuchins threw him out after eight months because he broke everything. Eventually a Franciscan house at La Grotella accepted him as a stableboy.
He prayed and fasted and did his best to perform every task to perfection. Eventually the delighted brothers decided to accept him as one of their equals, and in 1628 he was ordained priest. From that time onwards Joseph of Cupertino was continually passing into ecstatic trances, sometimes even appearing to float above the ground. No meals could be taken in the monastery without some extraordinary interruption because of Joseph's miraculous behaviour. For thirty-five years the community decided that he should be kept out of the choir and refectory.
Naturally enough his miracles and above all the reports of his supernatural levitations attracted countless curious visitors. In 1653 the church authorities transferred him to a Capuchin friary in the hills of Pietarossa and kept him completely out of sight. Finally Saint Joseph was allowed to join his own order at a place called Osima, but he was still kept out of sight until his death in 1663. All this he bore without the remotest complaint. Fittingly the twentieth century has made the saint patron of pilots and airline passengers.
Excerpted from A Calendar of Saints by James Bentley
Patron: air travellers; astronauts; aviators; paratroopers; pilots; students; test takers.