On September 18, the Church remembers the memory of Saint Joseph of Cupertino. In what way is he a model for Catholics?
Newsroom (September 20, 2021, 10:23, Gaudium Press) If ever there was a man poorly endowed with natural qualities, this was Joseph of Cupertino.
At birth, due to his father’s debts, his family’s furniture was repossessed; and his mother had no choice but to give birth in a stable.
The son of artisans, crippled, sickly, despised by all, mocked by his friends who called him “Open Mouth,” his own mother also repudiated him. He had a gangrenous ulcer. His childhood was a struggle between life and death; until a religious man cured him.
He was unable to pass an exam, unable to hold a conversation, could not run a household or touch a plate without breaking it, and he looked like a useless and poor serviceman.
When he later wanted to embrace the religious life, he faced the most severe difficulties. He entered the Capuchins as a convert, but his natural incapacity and his supernatural preoccupations seemed to combine to make him inept at everything. He called himself Friar Donkey.
While his clumsiness was evident, no one perceived his sanctity.
Eventually, the religious men found him absolutely unbearable. Enraptured in ecstasy while taking care of the refectory, he would drop plates and dishes, and as a sign of penance, they glued them to his habit.
He served black bread instead of white bread. Carrying a little water from one place to another took him a whole month. Finally, considering him useless for either the material duties or the spiritual life, they dismissed him from the convent.
Expelled from other religious houses, the convent of Grotela finally admitted Joseph. In this new convent, they entrusted him with caring for a donkey.
Ordained as priest
He could barely read and write and wanted to be a priest. He could never explain any of the Gospel texts, except the one containing the words “blessed is the womb that bore you.”
When taking the diaconate exam, the Bishop opens the book of the Gospels at random and tells the candidate to comment on the phrase “blessed is the womb that brought you.”
Joseph explained superiorly. The exam for the priesthood remained. Now, all the postulants, except Joseph, knew the subject perfectly. The first ones who took the exam did it so brilliantly that the Bishop stopped before he had examined them all. And, judging the test useless, he admitted the remaining applicants, among them Joseph.
On March 4, 1628, Joseph became a priest, regardless of men and things, despite all his well-known but forgotten incapacities.
To be efficient
When someone loves God with the complete commitment of his soul, he tries to accomplish everything that his vocation requires. The efficient man is not someone who does something outside his call. The height of inefficiency is to work outside one’s calling.
The order of things consists in acting according to the plans of Providence. Whoever “performs” outside God’s plans, the more effective he is, the more mistaken he is!
So, a man must ask himself whether he can execute God’s will concerning himself or not.
To do God’s will, one does not need intelligence but love.
With whomsoever proceeds in this way, God disposes of everything to carry out His plans for that soul. For this reason, even before seeking to know a man’s talents, one must ask whether he loves God and knows God’s plans for himself.
For Providence sometimes evokes men like St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Blessed, with an evident, natural capacity; and sometimes He calls for a poor incompetent such as St. Joseph of Cupertino, who, by being a true saint and attending to the plans of Providence, did the work of God.
Thus, God makes all His saints shine, allowing them to perform wonders beyond their energies, possibilities, talents or abilities, because they are in the paths of Providence and carry out His work.
On both extremes of human capacity, from St. Joseph of Cupertino to St. Thomas Aquinas, the saints have always accomplished far more than their natural ability would allow.
In Heaven, it will be possible to see, side by side, St. Joseph of Cupertino and St. Thomas Aquinas venerating Our Lady and adoring Our Lord Jesus Christ, singing hymns for all eternity.
Abandoned even by God
There is yet another fascinating aspect of St. Joseph’s life.
The material misery, which he had condemned himself to, was aggravated by a very different interior suffering. The consolations which supported him since childhood gave way to a sad and gloomy dryness, which increased day by day.
He wrote to a friend: “I complained a lot about God, with God.
I had given up everything for Him, and He, instead of consoling me, had abandoned me to mortal anguish.”
One perceives in this passage the value of spiritual goods over all others. St. Jospeh was deprived of all earthly possessions, yet he was not bothered. From the moment he lacked spiritual consolations, he knew that he could turn to God.
One day, how I would cry, how I would groan – just thinking about it makes me feel like dying -, a religious man knocks on my door. I don’t answer.
He enters and says: “Brother Joseph, what’s wrong with you? Here I am to serve you. Look, here is a tunic. I thought you didn’t have a tunic.”
Indeed, my tunic was coming apart. I put on the one the stranger gave me, and all my despair vanished in an instant. Nobody ever recognized the religious man who had brought the tunic.
Holy Scripture says, “Behold the lilies of the field: they neither weave nor spin, yet Solomon in all his splendor did not dress like them.”
Now, what is Solomon’s sumptuous robe compared to this tunic, brought in these circumstances, perhaps by an Angel from Heaven?
From the moment consolation was restored to him, St. Joseph’s life was a true wonder.
To love God and walk in his paths, that in itself is enough!
What lesson can one learn from the life of St. Joseph of Cupertino?
He proved to the centuries to come that a man can be most venerable, no matter how much he may be a scrap. No matter how despised he was, St. Joseph possessed the only necessary thing: to walk in the paths of God.
Such a reality is a lesson in humility for us to understand how great a man becomes if he carries out God’s plans for himself, even when nature does nothing to help or contribute to it.
The efficient and successful man is the one who fulfills God’s will.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Compiled by Ena Alfaro
Spirituality, Fray Donkey, patron saint of students, SAINT JOSEPH OF CUPERTINO, Catholic News, Gaudium Press, St. Thomas Aquinas, fulfill God´s will, consolations, Plinio Correa de Oliveira, Holy Scripture, Salomon, the paths of God, Our Lady, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Heaven, Gospel,