Holiness is the defining characteristic of a saint.
Sometimes, though, God deigns to give a saint a special supernatural ability. Some saints are able, by God’s grace, to heal the sick, supernaturally survive persecution, or even predict the future, among other things.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino was graced with a particularly unique gift, even among the saints: he could fly. And he flew so much it actually became a problem!
Joseph was born in Italy at the beginning of the 17th century. His father died before he was born, ruining his family financially. As a result, like Christ, his mother gave birth to him in a stable.
As a child, it became clear something was different about him. He often fell into a religious ecstasy and had visions. It also became obvious that he had some sort of learning or mental disability.
As a young man, he felt drawn to religious life and tried joining a group of Conventual Franciscan friars in his hometown, but was rejected.
He then asked to join a group of Capuchin friars near his town and they accepted him as a lay brother. That arrangement soon ended, however, as his frequent religious ecstasies made his work difficult.
Back at home, he again pleaded with the Conventual Franciscan friars to let him join them. After several years, impressed with his religious devotion and simple living, they finally accepted him. His learning disability made studying for the priesthood difficult, but God supernaturally gave him the answers to test questions, and he eventually was ordained a priest.
That’s when the flying started.
While celebrating Mass, he fell into a religious ecstasy and started levitating. He also levitated during the Liturgy of the Hours and while praying in his room.
The levitating really got out of hand when it happened during public processions! One story says he levitated during a papal audience. Word of his miraculous flying quickly spread and people flocked to his monastery from all over to see it.
His superiors considered this problematic for two reasons. First, the flying and the crowds both disrupted their way of life. Second, levitation was associated with witchcraft, and it put him under suspicion.
In response, they tried sending Joseph away to other monasteries. But the levitating continued and the crowds kept discovering where he was.
Nonetheless, through all the hardship, persecution, and suspicion, Joseph maintained his faith and devotion to Christ. He lived to the age of 60 and was canonized about a hundred years after his death. His life was dramatized in the 1962 film The Reluctant Saint.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of air travelers, aviators, astronauts, people with mental handicaps, test takers, and poor students.