Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
St. Joseph of Cupertino (that’s Cupertino in Italy, not Cupertino, CA the default time zone on your Apple device) was born in 1603. As a child, he was given to wandering around outside, seemingly in awe of everything around him. He was a slow learner, clumsy with his hands, and because of a bad temper, not particularly well-liked by his peers. At the same time, he was very pious and prayerful, and was even privileged by God with special graces and spiritual consolations. St. Joseph is a good reminder that even someone with a bad temper and other imperfections can become very holy! Eventually, he was allowed to assist the Franciscan friars in their monastery, and after some time, the friars were so impressed by his devotion and sincerity, they invited him to join the order. In the Franciscan community, his prayer life flourished in an extraordinary way.
During his time as a friar, the consolation of prayer and the intensity of grace Joseph was receiving found expression in levitation. Quite literally, Joseph would float in prayer, whether during Mass or some other time of devotion. In a very powerful way Joseph knew God with his whole heart. His mind was still a challenge, as he was a poor student. As his seminary studies were drawing to a close, he had to pass an exam before being ordained a priest, which was the great desire of his heart. He prayed that he would succeed in his exam, and famously, his instructor asked him the only question to which he knew the answer. For this reason, St. Joseph of Cupertino is invoked as the patron saint of those taking exams.
If not for the priority of Sunday, today would be the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino. On this Sunday, we read an interesting parable in the Gospel (Luke 16:1-13). Jesus tells us the story of a dishonest steward who is to be fired from his position, and in order to guarantee security for himself, he further defrauds his employer. It seems that Jesus praises this (fictional) man’s dishonesty and shrewdness. In fact, our Lord does not condone the sinful attitude and actions of the steward, but he uses them as an example. Though the behavior is bad, there is a level of cleverness to be acknowledged. Here, Jesus grounds us firmly in reality. Living in the world, we must deal with material things, with greed, with temporal desires that interfere with an eternal outlook. Jesus tells us not to pretend that we don’t have to deal with those things, but to learn to use them to our advantage in the spiritual realm. He tells us to be trustworthy in small things so that we might be trustworthy in great things. In truth, the material, temporal, earthly concerns of our lives need to be seen as small things, for in comparison to the eternity that awaits us, they are of little value. When we find even in our “small” responsibilities a spiritual meaning, when we offer our simple daily tasks to God, when we realize that even the least important things can have a spiritual value, our perspective shifts away from the temporal to the eternal.
St. Joseph of Cupertino may have been bad-tempered, absent-minded, and a poor student. But as he grew in holiness and spiritual maturity, he came to understand that some of the earthly concerns that would be with him his whole life could be stepping stones closer to God (though he was able to just float to the Lord), rather than stumbling blocks along the way. The story of his pre-exam prayer illustrates that even something as seemingly routine as an academic test can be put in a spiritual context. If the thing matters to us, it matters to God. It matters to God not because tests in themselves are important, but because we human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, loved by God and willed into existence by Him, are of infinite value. We who are temporal are loved by a God who is eternal. Even a dishonest steward can see that certain material things can be used to his temporal advantage. What if that steward had an eternal perspective? What if he could see that the concerns of this life could actually be part of his path toward salvation? St. Joseph of Cupertino’s life reminds us that each day and in every moment, we have constant opportunities for spiritual growth. Everything we have, everything we do, can be brought to God, even if it seems insignificant. When we entrust to God the small things of our lives, we will learn to trust Him in the greater and more challenging things. If you want to start putting this into practice, here are a few small suggestions.
- When you sit down to eat, pause for a prayer of Grace. It’s a 30 second way to be aware of God’s presence and offer yourself to Him.
- Before you leave the driveway, pray an Our Father in the car, entrusting your drive (no matter where you’re going) to the Lord.
- When washing your hands, pray a Hail Mary, so that a task that is often done without thought can now be filled with a spiritual thought.
- Remind yourself that no matter how small or silly the concern might be, God has time to listen to you.
St. Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us!