Saint John Joseph of the Cross: “The Friar of a Hundred Pieces”

Saint John Joseph of the Cross: “The Friar of a Hundred Pieces”

On March 5, Franciscans remember St. John Joseph of the Cross (1654–1734), a friar, preacher, and spiritual guide.

Joining the friars of the Discalced Franciscan Reform

John was born Carlo Gaetano Calosinto in 1654 on the volcanic island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples to an aristocratic and devout family (five of the seven sons in the family became priests). At age 16, Carlo surprised his family by his choice to join the friars of the strict Discalced Franciscan Reform associated with Saint Peter of Alcantara, who had recently been introduced into Naples from Spain.

St John Joseph of the Cross Castello Aragonese 700pxlsA small chapel in the Castello Aragonese adjacent to Ischia is dedicated to Saint John Joseph. (lpsphoto,us)

Committing to an austere, contemplative, penitential way of life

Receiving the name John Joseph of the Cross, Carlo thoroughly committed himself to their extremely austere way of life and became noted for his deep contemplative prayer, penitential practices, and devotion to the poor. Even before his ordination, he was sent to found a new friary in Piedmont, doing much of the labor himself, but his home for much of his life was the large friary of Santa Lucia al Monte in Naples.

St John Joseph of the Cross Church of Santa Lucia Naples 700pxlsJohn Joseph died in the church of Santa Lucia al Monte in Naples, and his body remained there until 2003.

Becoming “the friar of a hundred pieces”

John became provincial of the Italian Discalced friars in 1702. He told his friars never to turn away any beggar from their door, even if it meant doing without themselves. He went about barefoot his entire life and wore the same old coarse woolen habit, which he continuously patched, so that in Naples he became known as “the friar of a hundred pieces.” A habitually cheerful man despite all his austerities, he gained the reputation as a discerning and compassionate confessor. Among those who sought him out for spiritual direction were Saints Alphonsus Liguori and the Jesuit Francis de Geronimo, both of whom were canonized with him in 1839. John Joseph died in 1734.

St John Joseph of the Cross Church of San Antonio Ischia 700pxlsThe Franciscan church of San Antonio in Ischia houses Saint John Joseph's remains today. (lpsphoto,us)

Remaining greatly venerated in Naples

John Joseph remains greatly venerated in Naples and is patron of his native island of Ischia.

St John Joseph of the Cross glass urn Ischia procession 700pxlsThe glass urn containing Saint John Joseph's remains were brought back to Ischia in 2003.

Wisdom of Saint John Joseph of the Cross

He used to say to his companions, when they were dismayed by the hardships they suffered:


“Let us hope in God, and doubtless we shall be comforted.”


To the distressed who flocked to him, he said:


“God is a tender father, who loves and has compassion on all.”


“Doubt not; trust in God, He will provide.”


“Were there neither heaven nor hell, still would I ever wish to love God, who is a father so deserving of our love.”


“Let us love our Lord, love him from our hearts, for the love of God is a great treasure. Blessed is the person that loves God.”


Main image: An 18th-century engraving of Saint John Joseph of the Cross


Dominic Monti

Dominic Monti

Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. A native of nearby Bradford, PA, he was educated at St. Bonaventure (BA); after joining the Order, he attended the Catholic University of America (STB), Union Theological Seminary, NY (STM), and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (PhD). He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor. He is spiritual assistant to a federation of Poor Clares and the Franciscan Secular Institute, the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ.