Saturday, September 18, 2010

Because Joseph of Cupertino Could Fly

—Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino
The world is held in thrall by Stephen Hawking's declaration that there is no need for a Creator for the universe to have been formed. The giant has spoken, succinctly, and confidently. If you are like me, you haven't read his new book, but you saw the interview with Larry King.

One of my take-away's from the interview? Stephen Hawking gushing over his experience of being weightless. He got to take a flight on one of those NASA planes that climbs parabolically so at the "top", for a short while, zero-G is achieved. He evidently was thrilled to be weightless.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, patron of astronauts, aviators and air travelers. He had, on more than one occasion, the knack for levitating during prayer. How about that Dr. Hawking? And he didn't need some specially modified Boeing 727 slurping down tons of JP-5 to make this happen either. Nor did he have the whiz kids over at Industrial Light and Magic working for him.

If seeing is believing, then there were a swarm of believers when ol' Joe went a flying. Take a look at the account below,

On October 4, 1630, the town of Cupertino held a procession on the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi. Joseph was assisting in the procession when he suddenly soared into the sky, where he remained hovering over the crowd. When he descended and realized what had happened, he became so embarrassed that he fled to his mother's house and hid.

Whaat?! Those wacky Catholics with their antics. I bet they spent hours contriving this "miracle." Bet you they couldn't repeat it.

His flights continued and came with increasing frequency. His superiors, alarmed at his lack of control, forbade him from community exercises, believing he would cause too great a distraction for the friary.

Holy Smoke! This sounds sort of like William Katt in The Greatest American Hero, or that character from The Rocketeer. Bad Joseph! Control yourself, man. This is getting embarrassing.

On hearing the names of Jesus or Mary, the singing of hymns, during the feast of St. Francis, or while praying at Mass, he would go into dazed state and soar into the air, remaining there until a superior commanded him to come down.

Joseph, and God,  liked zero-G so much, He decided to let Joseph experience anti-gravity on a pretty regular basis. But the event that caught everyones attention? I thought you'd never ask.

Joseph's most famous flight allegedly occurred during a papal audience before Pope Urban VIII. When he bent down to kiss the Pope's feet, he was suddenly filled with reverence for Christ's Vicar on earth, and was lifted up into the air. Only when the Minister General of the Order, who was part of the audience, ordered him down was Joseph able to return to the floor.

Imagine something like that happening during Our Pope's visit to the United Kingdom today. Guess what else?

Joseph gave off a sweet smell because he was pure. Joseph could also smell the bad odor of a sinful person. When they would come, sometimes he would tell them that they stank and that they should go wash themselves. By this, he meant for them to go to confession.

I betcha the confessionals at my parish would be a little fuller if our own parish priest had this "gift." Sheesh.

On August 10, 1663, Joseph became ill with a fever, but the experience filled him with joy. When asked to pray for his own healing he said, "No, God forbid.” He experienced ecstasies and flights during his last mass which was on the Feast of the Assumption.

But Joseph never acted like he was special. No siree. He was humble and embarrassed by his gift.

In early September, Joseph could sense that the end was near, so he could be heard mumbling, "The jackass has now begun to climb the mountain!" The 'jackass' was his own body. After receiving the last sacraments, a papal blessing, and reciting the Litany of Our Lady, Joseph Desa of Cupertino died on the evening of September 18, 1663. He was buried two days later in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception before great crowds of people.

I would have been there too. Who knows? Maybe there would have been another miracle. A little over a hundred years later, Joseph was canonized on July 16, 1767, by Pope Clement XIII. In 1781, a large marble altar in the Church of St. Francis in Osimo was erected so that St. Joseph's body might be placed beneath it and there it has remained ever since.

Something a little more supernatural than smoke and mirrors was at work in little Joseph of Cupertino. I'll ask him to pray for us now. And then I'll watch the movie made in 1962 entitled The Reluctant Saint starring Maximilian Schell as Joseph, as well as Ricardo Montalban. I think Dr. Hawking would enjoy this one.