Joseph of Cupertino - Evidence given of the Saint's levitations at Osimo
Type of Spiritual Experience
Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian. He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. He was also widely read on this subject. He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.
A description of the experience
Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism
When, in 1645, the Spanish Ambassador to the Papal Court, the High Admiral of Castile, passed through that town he visited Joseph of Copertino in his cell. After conversing with him he returned to the church and told his wife "I have seen and spoken with another St. Francis." As his wife then expressed a great desire to enjoy the same privilege, the Father Guardian gave Joseph an order to go down to the church and speak with Her Excellency.
To this he made answer "I will obey, but I do not know whether I shall be able to speak with her." In point of fact no sooner had he entered the church than his eyes rested on a statue of Mary Immaculate which stood over the altar, and he at once flew about a dozen paces over the heads of those present to the foot of the statue. Then after paying homage there for some short space and uttering his customary shrill cry he flew back again and straightway returned to his cell, leaving the Admiral, his wife and the large retinue which attended them speechless with astonishment.
Now this story is accompanied in the biographies both of Pastrovicchi and of Bernini with a great array of references to the depositions in the process, and it is expressly stated that these were made by witnesses "de visu" who had been actual spectators of the scene. Still more trustworthy is the evidence given of the Saint's levitations at Osimo, where he spent the last six years of his life. There his fellow-religious saw him fly up seven or eight feet into the air to kiss the statue of the Infant Jesus which stood over the altar, and they told how he carried off this wax image in his arms and floated about with it in his cell in every conceivable attitude.
On one occasion during these last years of his life he caught up another friar in his flight and carried him some distance round the room, and this indeed he is stated to have done on several previous occasions.
In the very last Mass which he celebrated, on the festival of the Assumption, 1663, a month before his death, he was lifted up in a longer rapture than usual.
For these facts we have the evidence of several eye-witnesses who made their depositions, as usual under oath, only four or five years later.
It is very difficult to believe that they could have been deceived as to the broad fact that the Saint did float in the air, as they were convinced they had seen him do, under every possible variety of conditions and in many different surroundings.