On March 5, Franciscans remember St. John Joseph of the Cross (1654–1734), a friar, preacher, and spiritual guide.
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.
A small chapel in the Castello Aragonese adjacent to Ischia is dedicated to Saint John Joseph. (lpsphoto,us)
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.
John Joseph died in the church of Santa Lucia al Monte in Naples, and his body remained there until 2003.
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.
The Franciscan church of San Antonio in Ischia houses Saint John Joseph's remains today. (lpsphoto,us)
John Joseph remains greatly venerated in Naples and is patron of his native island of Ischia.
The glass urn containing Saint John Joseph's remains were brought back to Ischia in 2003.
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.”
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. 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.