This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 4 - Feast of Saint Joseph of Leonessa

I am not sure that Tiepolo captured Joseph's spirit; St. Fidelis, however, is badass.
Joseph was baptized Euphranio Desideri, but took the name Joseph when he became a Capuchin friar.  An orphan, he had been raised by an uncle who arranged a marriage into a noble family, but he felt a strong calling to religious service.  Indeed, his confidence as a preacher was powerful, and grew with his successes.  He once converted a band of fifty highway bandits, which is bound to go to one's head.

Joseph was rigid in the mortification of his flesh.  He fasted three days at a time on a regular basis and slept on bare boards.  In 1599, he fasted for an entire year to prepare himself for the Jubilee in 1600.  But well before that, he was a Minister General to the Christians in and around Constantinople.  This was well after the fall of the Byzantine Empire -- the Turks tolerated Christianity (more or less), but apostasy from Islam was punishable by death.  One would not expect that Christian missionaries would be either popular or successful in such circumstances, but as a minister to other Christians, he was quite a curiosity.  Muslim visitors would drop by the abandoned school at the Benedictine monastery to see how this abstemious monk lived.

The Ottoman navy had about 4,000 Christian galley slaves in the area to whom Joseph ministered.  This lasted for a while, but eventually he was thrown in jail as a spy.  The Venetian ambassador secured his release, but Joseph blew his liberty by trying to get into the Sultan's palace to proselytize.  The Turks hung him over a smoky fire for three days by iron hooks driven through his hand and foot.
 He returned to Italy in 1589... how, you ought to be wondering, did he escape from the smoke and the fire and the iron hooks.  An angel released him.  Or a merciful Turk whom he called an angel.  Or a brave Christian insurgent whom he called an angel.  But then again, maybe it was really an angel, with the six wings and the sword and the whole angel thing.

In Italy, he resumed his fearless itinerant preaching, going so far as to wade into battles among street gangs with his crucifix held above him.  His focus was on helping the poorest, most unfortunate in society.  His death, from post-op complications related to cancer surgery, was in 1612. 

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