Giuseppe really didn’t have any skills. He was considered exceedingly dull as a child, and seemed incapable of learning anything. He performed poorly in school, couldn’t seem to keep his focus on the simplest things, and failed at apprenticeships as a teenager. He would “space out” frequently and even wander off at times.
When he tried to join the Capuchin Franciscans in the hopes of finding his place in the world, he was accepted for a time. Then they sent him away because of his lack of ability to do…anything. In addition to his apparent unintelligence, the bouts of distraction continued, wherein he was seemingly whisked away by some pious thought while he was supposed to be occupied with a practical task.
He tried again with a different community of Franciscans as a servant, and things began to improve. The Franciscans noticed how humble Giuseppe was, how full of joy, how simple; indeed, he was what a model Franciscan should be. He was readmitted to the Order, and began studies for the priesthood.
But study was still his weakness, and he found himself unable to learn what he needed to know. There was only one Scripture passage he could talk about: Luke 11:27, “Blessed is the womb that bore you.” When it came time for his diaconate test, his prospects looked grim—but as God would have it, he was asked during his exam to speak on exactly that passage, and speak he did! A deacon he became, and eventually a priest—and is now known as the patron saint of test-takers.
Giuseppe’s episodes of abstraction continued, and with immense fervor. He would be lost for long periods of time in contemplation at the beauty of God, completely taken away from this world to the other. It appeared that his trademark absent-mindedness was something far deeper than that. He had an incredible connection to God, who chose to reveal Himself in ways that made Giuseppe lose himself in wonder.
And did we mention that he flew? Levitation was a normal part of this mystical friar’s life. He would fly across the chapel; when he heard the names of Jesus and Mary; at the refectory table; outside when in awe at the beauty of creation, et cetera. He is now also known as the patron of aviators!
Though Giuseppe was beloved by the poor he served, his mystical experiences did not always gain him the favor of his brethren. He was reported to the Inquisition for his unusual behavior. Although they found nothing against him, he was eventually put into seclusion, never really returning to normal life. He spent twenty-five years this way, accepting everything with resignation and patience. He died on September 18th, 1663.
You and the young readers in your life can read more about this incredible saint in the lovely book The Little Friar Who Flew. Filled with the illustrations of beloved artist Tomie de Paola, this tale will charm readers young and old with its story of a humble friar, rejected by the world, who literally “flew” to the heights of sanctity. Available today at The Catholic Company!