By doing God's will, even a "dim-wit" can be a saint
by Colleen Roy
Photo Caption: This work of art by Ludovico Mazzanti, portrays St. Joseph of Cupertino levitating at the site of the Basilica of Loreto (wikipedia.org)
I recently watched the movie “The Reluctant Saint” about St. Joseph Cupertino. It was very sweet, with lots of humour. My kids watched it after me and also enjoyed it.
Joseph is simple-minded, being a 20-year old still in school. His mother, knowing that there is really no place for him in the ordinary world, sets her mind to having him enter a Franciscan monastery. The monks aren’t sure what to do with this oaf, and he suffers much humiliation, but he gives himself to his daily work and prayer, in obedience, and simply does the best he can. Joseph’s childlike heart soon becomes a great sign to them.
One day while praying, Joseph looks up to the face of a broken statue of Our Lady and is taken into a kind of ecstasy, eventually levitating off the ground. It happens again during Holy Mass, then starts to become a regular occurrence.
At first his superior suspects Joseph of being possessed. Why would God choose Joseph to do something miraculous?
It’s a bit hard to understand it ourselves. Obviously, we don’t see too many levitators flying around. To what purpose did his levitating serve?
Years ago, Scott was leading a class on the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He commented on the fact that man and beasts were both created on the same day – Day 6. It’s interesting to note that 6 is the number of the beast, often referring to Satan.
The difference between man and the beasts is that we were made on Day 6, but for Day 7, the day of the Lord. So, during those times when man is vain, cruel, and perverse, he remains in the sixth day with the beasts. He is less than human.
But when man succeeds in selflessness, sanctity, and joy, and the more he seeks beauty, the more human he becomes, and more like his Creator. He joins him in the seventh day.
I think that even as a “dim-wit,” as Joseph is called in the story, his piety and child-like faith made Joseph more human.
So, what does it mean to be more human? It means to conquer the Day 6 beast, to crucify ourselves with Christ so that it might be Christ who lives in us.
As Saint Joseph thought on the glory of God and contemplated in simplicity the love of his Father, his very soul was made to be more fully alive. That drew him closer into communion, so close that it lifted him from the floor. He was physically moving into Day 7.
To be fully human means to be a saint, and to be a saint means to live through Lent and into the Resurrection. If Lent was a time of self-emptying, then Easter is the time of Christ-filling.
The reason we fast, pray, and give during Lent is so we detach ourselves from earthly things (pleasures, money, possessions, time, and selfishness) that distract us from holiness and hold us down.
When we conquer the beast, our humanity is there waiting for us. The soil of our garden is turned and weeded during those 40 days so that it might be seeded and watered in the life of Easter. The garden of our soul comes to life in glory.
We are made to be with Christ and like Christ. At the Resurrection, Christ is seen, fully alive and glorified, a sign of what we are to become. Saint Irenaeus wrote, “The glory of God is man fully alive” – alive in Christ, not in his self.
Our lives are meant to demonstrate God’s glory. This sounds out of reach. But if we know the lives of the saints, like Joseph of Cupertino, then we can understand that our sanctity is found in those everyday, ordinary moments of life.
Washing dishes, changing diapers, making music and art, preparing a meal; these all are the tools to our authentic and full humanity. The love and joy with which we do these ordinary things are what separate us from the beasts, and can make us holy. These ordinary things are what can bring us to the extraordinary event of the Resurrection.
The glory of God is man fully alive.