Exam-taking can be terrifying, particularly for those with difficulty concentrating or memorizing, or who just feel that they are slow. St. Joseph of Cupertino was plagued by these obstacles his entire life, and is now the patron saint of exams. Because of his gift of levitation, he is also the patron saint of pilots, paratroopers and air travelers. Joseph led a hard life, plagued by absent-mindedness, misunderstanding of his gifts and the general perception that he was dull.
Joseph was born in 1603 to Francesca Panara and Felice Desa. Desa died prior to Joseph's birth, leaving behind debts. These debts forced Panara from her home, and she gave birth to Joseph in a stable, much to her shame. At school Joseph was unpopular: He was awkward, absent-minded and considered unintelligent. At home, his mother was unkind.
When Joseph was 17, a begging friar came into his village. Joseph felt that, despite his disabilities, he could beg, and so decided to join the monastic order. After many tries he found a monastery that took him in. However, the friars became so irritated by his slow learning and trances, they kicked him out. Eventually he was taken in by the Franciscan order as keeper of the monastery mule. He learned to read, and set out to become ordained.
St. Joseph and the Exam
It is said that Joseph had a particular way of preparing for exams. Unable to retain information from a theological text, Joseph would memorize one section and pray that it would be on the exam. The only Scripture Joseph understood well enough to speak of at length was Luke 11:27. During Joseph's ordination exam, the bishop happened to open the Bible to that passage. Joseph spoke so eloquently that the bishop declared Joseph had passed the exam, and did not ask any further questions.
St. Joseph's Gifts
In addition to spectacular test-taking abilities, Joseph had other gifts. He could levitate, and experienced trances wherein he received fantastic visions. However, these gifts were not unilaterally appreciated. Joseph himself was embarrassed by them. On his first levitation, Joseph was so shocked when he returned to earth he ran to his mother's house and hid.
Death of St. Joseph
As time went on, Joseph faced further persecution for his talents. He was sent away to a convent in Capuchin, deep in the mountains, ostensibly for his safety. There he was banned from speaking to anyone outside the order and from leaving the grounds. Eventually he was confined to his room at Osimo, where he died age 60 on Sept. 18, 1663.
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