Biography of The Flying Friar Giuseppe Desa Part 1

About the Flying Friar Giuseppe Desa, biography and history of the levitating Saint.


The Flying Friar

Giuseppe Desa was born in Copertino, in the heel of Italy, in 1603. Later, as St. Joseph of Copertino, he became famous as the "Flying Monk" because of his remarkable levitations during ecstatic states.

His early life was very similar to that of Jesus Christ. Joseph's father was a poor carpenter who, after considerable harassment from creditors, was forced to move his pregnant wife away from town. It is said that Joseph was born in a stable. By the time he was eight, he had made his own small altar in a corner of his home, and he spent hours either praying or sitting in an apparently ecstatic state before it. At school he was called "Open Mouth" because of his tendency to sit motionless with mouth agape, staring at the heavens. Often flies would land on his eyeballs, and he would not blink.

As he grew older, he martyred himself in every possible way. He wore the roughest of hair shirts and never wore shoes. He slept on three hard boards and fasted so severely that it caused internal abscesses. He also began to whip himself whenever he felt the need for punishment, which was often. At the age of 17, in August, 1620, he decided to devote his life to God and offered himself as a lay brother to the Capuchin order. To his great delight, he was accepted. Unfortunately, this first attempt at becoming a monk lasted only eight months. His ecstasies, trances, and absentmindedness made it difficult for him to do his assigned chores. He worked in the kitchen, where, during his religious trances, he frequently broke the crockery. As a penance he wore the broken fragments around his neck. Finally he was asked to leave the order.

Undaunted, Joseph continued to offer himself to God. Eventually he was admitted into another order, and this time it did work out. He became a cleric and took the name of Friar Joseph Maria. On Mar. 28, 1628, he was formally accepted into the priesthood. This happened by luck rather than by design. The examining bishop found the first few prospective priests so good that he admitted all the rest, Joseph among them, on the assumption that they were of equal quality.

He led an extremely ascetic life. He still wore his hair shirt and walked barefoot, and he added to his self-torture by wearing a narrow iron chain around his hips. His breadless vegetarian diet consisted of small amounts of herbs, dried fruits, and saltless baked beans, all covered with a powder so bitter that only he could eat them. His self-flagellation continued, but now he used a whip spiked with pins and bits of metal. The walls of his cell were often spattered with his blood. This self-punishment became so intense that Joseph's superior confiscated the spiked whips. As a final indignity Joseph called himself "The Ass."

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