ERICKSON: St. Joseph of Cupertino - Back to school saint

August 14, 2018

There are so many saints for college students to aid them in their studies. What is surprising is that not all of the saints were educated, but they were certainly holy.

Formation, or even a certain amount of religious education, can help students on their road to sanctity, but it is the total dependence and surrender to God that pushes them past the heavenly gate.

Yes, their holiness lifts them high, which is the result of deep humility, and for some it comes with limitations of gaining knowledge. The Holy Spirit dispenses His Wisdom (perfected knowledge) to whom He desires. Such is the case of St. Joseph of Cupertino.

Most people know St. Joseph of Cupertino as the patron saint of aviators, flying, for those who have disabilities, and for studying and taking examinations. Nice combination for a beautiful and holy human person, but why?

For each saint there is a story — an epic that is begging to be told. The narrative for St. Joseph serves as an incredible exposition of love. He was born in a stable on June 17, 1603 in the Kingdom of Naples. Joseph grew up in poverty and maintained a humble and innocent attitude. His mother treated him harshly and considered him inoperable to do anything. He was considered slow in learning and absent-minded, and walked aimlessly with his mouth wide open which earned him the name, “the gaper.” He was also hot tempered.

Despite the lack of development, he had visions and fell into ecstasies as child. He grew in holiness by practicing humility, fasting, volunteer mortification and obedience.

For a short time he joined the Capuchins, but was released from the order because he just couldn’t do anything right. Joseph returned home to his mother who was not pleased to have him return. She arranged that he join the local Franciscan Conventual monastery as a servant where he was given the friar’s habit and barnyard duties.

From there the Holy Spirit went to great work. Joseph grew in humility and gentleness. He increased in praying, fasted more, and practiced deeper acts of penance.

This did not go unnoticed.

Due to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, and against all odds, he finally entered the Franciscan order and began studying for the priesthood. Due to his limitations, he had a very hard time studying. He was expected to fail, but through miraculous events, he was only asked the very few things he knew.

Yes, God indeed had plans: He passed his exams. Whatever imperfections he may have had, they can now be seen as beautiful gifts.

His relationship with the Lord grew deeper; he was often seen in ecstasy speaking with God. Accompanying these experiences of ecstasies came another; levitation. Whether he was at Mass, in prayer, or in front of holy images, he would rise. The mere mention of the Lord could send him into ecstasy and raise him to new heights. People came to see Father Joseph to seek his aid, and to his hear advice in the confessional. He helped many folks to live a deeper Christian life.

All this does not mean that St. Joseph had an easy road. For someone who had a profound humility, the rest of his life was a road of severe trials and dreadful temptations. The Lord took him home on Sept. 18, 1663.

Students going back school should remember that St. Joseph is not just patron for aviators, and those who have disabilities (he can also be very beneficial for those who have learning disabilities), but is a help for those who are studying and taking exams. If the Lord can move St. Joseph with all his limitations, imagine how he can aid students in their school studies and exams.

Prayer to St. Joseph of Cupertino
St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us.
O Great St. Joseph of Cupertino who while on earth did obtain from God the grace to be asked at your examination only the questions you knew, obtain for me a like favor in the examinations for which I am now preparing.
In return I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked. I will also imitate your life of prayer and devotion, through Jesus Christ our Lord. St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for us. 

Carl Erickson is the campus minister for the Galveston Newman Center.