History


 

 

 

5th March

 

St. John Joseph of the Cross

 

Confessor, First Order

 

The feast day of Saint John Joseph of the Cross (San Giovan Giuseppe della Croce, 1654-1739) is celebrated today, March 5. Saint John Joseph was a man of quiet contemplation and penance, known for obedience above all else, and so it is especially fitting that we reflect on his life during Lent.

 

Born on the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, on the beautiful Italian island of Ischia, near Naples in 1654, John Joseph demonstrated a love of the Lord and piety beyond his years from an early age. As a young adolescent, John Joseph was drawn to the ascetic life, embraced poverty, and began his lifelong pattern of fasting and penance. So drawn to the plight of the poor was he, that despite his noble upbringing, he chose to dress in rags. At age 16 entered the Franciscan Order in Naples. While not his intention, John Joseph made an immediate impression, recognized for his holiness and commitment to the rules of the order. He was the first Italian to follow the reform movement of Spanish Saint Peter Alcantara, a movement which re-dedicated the Franciscans to an increasingly austere way of life. He, himself, fasted constantly, abstained from meat and wine, and slept only three hours each night, the remainder of his time spent in prayer.

 

Saint John Joseph was made supervisor of a new friary, even before his ordination, based upon his superiors’ encounters with his holiness. He built a community in Piedmont, himself assisting with the actual construction as a labourer and then a mason. Upon completion he established a perfect rule of silence, which the members of the community embraced under his direction. After ordination, John Joseph accepted “promotion” after “promotion” our of obedience, being named first Novice master, then guardian, and finally provincial of the Order. He subsequently built additional communities throughout Italy, subscribing to the reformist rule of the Franciscan Order.

 

Drawn to service and penance, Saint John Joseph exemplified these virtues as provincial of the Order. His years of mortification imbued him with great charity, and throughout his tenure, he insisted on cooking for his brothers and carrying their firewood, considering it a privilege to serve. He continued these practices until his term expired, after which he retired to a more solitary life in which he dedicated himself to hearing confessions and practicing mortification. Such was his holiness, that despite his growing age and illness, the sick of the region continued to stream to him for counsel and healing.

 

Saint John Joseph is regarded as a moral theologian, himself having been graced with inspired knowledge of moral teachings, from years of prayer and contemplation. He was called upon to heal rifts in the Church, factions in the order, and the wanderings of the hearts of those he served, all of which he did without complaint. Those who came to him for confession reported that he could “read their hearts,” was a miracle-worker, and often tried to tear off bits of his garments as holy relics.

 

Saint John Joseph was graced with profound humility and discipline. His love of the Lord manifested in numerous supernatural gifts, including prophecy and healing, levitation and bilocation. He was once found in the chapel, in adoration of the Lord, having risen far above the floor in ecstasy. At another time, stricken by partial paralysis and dependent on a walking stick, John Joseph lost his cane in a large crowd, and after a prayer, was levitated outside the crowd, with his walking stick floating gently behind him—an occurrence witnessed by large numbers! John Joseph was known to experience ecstatic visions, including a vision of his mother during her funeral Mass, awakening to praise the Lord, and then ascending into heaven to pray with Him.

Saint John Joseph of the Cross possessed an unfailing love and faith in the Lord. In one of his preserved writings, he said, "whoever walks always in God's presence, will never commit sin, but will preserve his innocence and become a great saint." He further is remembered for his confidence in the care and protection of God, saying to his companions, "Let us hope in God, and doubtless we shall be comforted,” and "God is a tender father, who loves and succours all.” Saint John Joseph, himself obediently suffering numerous setbacks and illnesses, lived his words, "Doubt not. Trust in God. He will provide."

 

His words of love, as the root of his obedience, penance, and contemplation, are inspirational and remind us that austerity without purpose, penance without true conversion, and fasting because we “have to,” not because we view self-denial as a pathway to holiness, is meaningless. Without the love of God at the centre of our world, our actions become noise, disconnected from the reality of eternity. Saint John Joseph of the Cross said, "Were there neither heaven nor hell, still would I ever wish to love God, who is a father so deserving of our love." How best can we show our love of God to Him, who is all deserving, and to each other?2

Saint John Joseph died at the age of eighty, like an innocent and beautiful child, his final glance resting on a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was on March 5, 1734. His grave at Naples is an object of constant veneration and many miracles still occur there. Pope Pius Vi beatified him, and Gregory XVI solemnly canonized him on Trinity Sunday in 1839. The entire Order as well as the Third Order Regular observes his feast on March 5th.2

 

 

Prayer of the Church

 

O God, who didst raise Thy servant St. John Joseph through the

rugged way of poverty, humility, and patience to heavenly glory,

grant, we beseech Thee, that by mortifying our flesh we may

follow the example of the saint and so partake of the eternal joys.

Through the same Christ Our Lord Who liveth  and reigneth

with Thee

 and the Holy Spirit,  One God, now and forever.  Amen

1.    Jacob’s Post, March 2011,Saint John Joseph of the Cross,365rosaries.blogspot,Accessed 5th February 2013,<web:65rosaries.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/february-5-saint-john-joseph-of-cross.html

 

2. Habig, Marion A., O.F.M., 1959, ed., The Franciscan book of Saints, Franciscan Herald press, Chicago, Illinois

 

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