05 Mar Saint John Joseph of the Cross, Confessor, Priest
Today is the feast day of Saint John Joseph of the Cross. Ora pro nobis.
Saint John Joseph of the Cross was born on the feast of the Assumption in 1654, on the island of Ischia in the kingdom of Naples. From his childhood he was a model of virtue. (7)
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.
Such was the edification he gave in his Order, that within three years after his profession he was sent to found a monastery in Piedmont. He assisted in its construction himself and established there the most perfect silence and monastic fervor. (2)
One day Saint John Joseph was found in the chapel in ecstasy, raised far above the floor. He won the hearts of all his religious, and became a priest out of obedience to his Superiors. He obtained what seemed to be an inspired knowledge of moral theology, in prayer and silence. He assisted at the death of his dear mother who rejoiced and seemed to live again in his presence, and after he had sung the Mass for the repose of her soul, saw her soul ascend to heaven, to pray thereafter their God face to face. (2,7)
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 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 succors all.” Saint John Joseph, himself obediently suffering numerous setbacks and illnesses, lived his words, “Doubt not. Trust in God. He will provide.”
Pope Pius VI beatified him, and Gregory XVI solemnly canonized Saint John Joseph of the Cross on Trinity Sunday in the year 1839. (1)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff