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Saint John Joseph of the Cross

Category: Religious

 

Saint John Joseph of the Cross (15 August 1654 – 5 March 1739) - born on Ischia, just off the coast of Italy, Carlo Gaetano Calosinto was an Italian priest and a professed member from the Order of Friars Minor. He had a reputation for austerity, for the gift of miracles, as well as healing and had many somewhat remarkable spiritual experiences, one of which was levitation.  He was also able to prophecy.

Catholic Encyclopedia
….. He was favoured in a high degree with the gift of miracles, people of every condition being brought to him in sickness. His zeal for souls was such that even in sickness he would not spare any labour for them....
He was studious to conceal and dissemble the great gifts of miracles and prophecy with which God favored him; ascribing the miracles he performed to the faith of those in whose behalf they were wrought, or to the intercession of the saints. Not infrequently he desired those whom he restored to health, to take some certain medicine, that the cure might be attributed to a mere natural remedy and with regard to his prophecies, which were numerous, he affected to judge from analogy and experience.

He was also an immensely kind man and perhaps this was his greatest virtue, he constantly wanted to help other people by teaching them or giving them support and encouragement – he lived Christianity he didn’t just preach it.

It was the constant practice of his life to feed the poor; and when he was superior, he ordered that no beggar should be dismissed from the convent gate without relief: in time of scarcity he devoted to their necessities his own portion, and even that of the community, relying upon Providence to supply their wants, and when he was only a private monk, he earnestly recommended this charity to the superiors.
But it was towards the sick that his charity displayed itself. He used to attend the infirm in his convent with unwearied assiduity; nor was he less anxious to serve those who were without, but generously sought them out, and visited them, even during the most inclement seasons. And as God maketh his sun to shine upon the wicked as well as the good, so our saint would not exclude even his enemies from the boundless range of his charity. For one who had insulted him he once labored strenuously to procure some advantageous post; and being warned that the man was his enemy, he replied, "that therefore he was under the greater obligation of serving him."

He was beatified under Pope Pius VI on 24 May 1789 and was later canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 26 May 1839 under Pope Gregory XVI. At the Aragonese Castle (Il Castello Aragonese) on Ischia there is a small chapel consecrated to the late friar.

St. John Joseph of the Cross’s  biography was written by the reverend postulator who conducted the process of his canonization, from authentic documents In his possession, and published at Rome in 1838, In a work entitled—Compendio della Vita di Giangiuseppe della Croce.

Life

Carlo Gaetano Calosirto was born on 15 August 1654 on the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples.

At the age of sixteen years he entered the Order of St. Francis at Naples, amongst the Friars of the Alcantarine Reform, being the first Italian to join this reform which had been instituted in Spain by St. Peter of Alcantara.  There he assumed the religious name of "John Joseph of the Cross".

From English translation of Compendio della Vita di Giangiuseppe della Croce.

He early discovered the seeds of those virtues that in a special manner enriched his soul, and sanctified his life in the religious state, humility, sweetness, obedience, and an incomparable modesty; and at the same time manifested a marvellous inclination to silence, retirement, and prayer. Wherefore, even in childhood, he made choice of a room in the most secluded quarter of the house, and therein fitting up a little altar to Our blessed Lady, (on whose great festival he had the happiness to be born, and towards whom, through life, he cherished a tender and filial devotion,) he spent his whole time in study and pious exercises. Here, too, he early manifested his attachment to the cross, sleeping upon a narrow hard bed, and fasting on appointed days during the week; and as he mortified the flesh betimes, so also he checked all pride, by wearing constantly mean clothes, notwithstanding his birth and station, in despite of remonstrances and reproach.


 In 1674 he was sent to found a convent for the order at Afila in Piedmont and assisted in the actual construction itself. Much against his will, he was raised to the priesthood. As superior, he always insisted upon performing the lowliest offices in the community. “Obedience moved John Joseph to accept appointments as novice master, guardian and, finally, provincial. But, his years of mortification enabled him to offer these services to the friars with great charity. As guardian he was not above working in the kitchen or carrying the wood and water needed by the friars”.

 

From English translation of Compendio della Vita di Giangiuseppe della Croce.

…..carried onward by an ardent love of the cross, whose treasures he more and more discovered as he advanced in the dignity and functions of the sacred ministry, he resolved to establish in the wood adjoining his convent a kind of solitude, where, after the manner of the ancient Fathers of the Desert, he might devote himself entirely to prayer and penitential austerities, and give to the Church an illustrious and profitable example of the sacerdotal spirit exercised in a perfect degree. There was found in the wood a pleasant fountain, whose waters healed the sick; and hard by he erected a little church, and round about it, at intervals, five small hermitages, wherein, with his companions, he renewed the austere and exalted life of the old anchorites, and advanced greatly in spirituality. And in order that no care or worldly thought might ruffle the sublime tranquillity of this contemplative life, the convent had charge of daily supplying the holy solitary with food.


So much of Saint John Joseph’s experiences were based on the use of a Safe House to reduce threats, a reduction in obligations, communing with nature, humility, fasting, charity [serving others], love with visualisation and reducing desires.

But another contributing factor appears to be grief – grief occasioned by the death of his mother:

From English translation of Compendio della Vita di Giangiuseppe della Croce.

But now succeeded the accustomed visitation of crosses, to be afterwards followed by an increase of grace and supernatural favours, an alternation which checkered the whole course of his life. He was summoned to his native country, Ischia, in order to discharge the painful duty of filial affection, and receive the last sighs of his dying mother. Her death ensued, full of hope, and calm, in the presence of her beloved; and, stifling the swelling emotions of sensible grief, this incomparable son followed her remains to the church, and offered up for her soul the sacrifice of propitiation.


 

In the provincial chapter of 1690, he was appointed to the office of definitor, in addition to that which he already held.  In 1702 the Italian convents were no longer dependent on the Spanish houses but were formed into a separate province. He was appointed as the Vicar Provincial of the Alcantarine Reform in the Italian peninsula as a result of this.  But the poor man really did not want any of these responsibilities and so:

on his remonstrances at being thus so often compelled to assume offices, in spite of his repugnance, he at length obtained a papal brief, exempting him from all charges, and annulling even his active and passive vote in the chapter. During the course of the year 1722, another brief made over to the Alcantarines the convent of St. Lucy, in Naples, and thither our saint retired, never afterwards to be brought out into the public light, which he so much shunned, but left to edify his brethren during the remainder of his life.

and thus

….His heart enjoyed a peace which no sufferings could molest, and which did not desert him even when he lay under the stroke of apoplexy that terminated in his death. For his hope was based upon the Catholic principle, that God, who destined him for an eternal kingdom, would not refuse the succors necessary to attain it.

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