St Joseph of Leonessa

(entered heaven this day in 1612)

Dear Leo,

I have no doubt at all that the difficulties you are facing and the hidden, interior suffering you have to endure are only the beginning.  A soul as sensitive as yours, a heart as loving, a mind as supple… These are gifts that God has not given you by mistake, and you will have to sanctify them, to Christ-ify them throughout your life by sharing little by little in our Lord’s own sufferings.  Of course, I also have no doubt that if God permits you the honor of suffering for your faith in him, he will also permit you the honor of experiencing the joys of his love. It is ever the paradox of Christianity: the passion of Good Friday followed by the rejoicing of Easter Sunday.

I recommend that you start even now to form a habit that served today’s saint well throughout his difficult life.  St Joseph became a Capuchin friar when he was only about 18, taking his habit in his hometown of Leonessa in central Italy.  He was a model of virtue and a zealous preacher. His words used to draw huge crowds and set the hearts of his listeners on fire.  He gradually took to holding a crucifix in his hands while he preached and attributed any fruits of his words to the power of Christ’s love pouring through the sacrifice of the cross.  Soon he was sent to Muslim turkey as a missionary, and there he exhausted himself caring spiritually and bodily for the Christian slaves, most especially the galley slaves, who lived in utterly despicable conditions.  While there, the plague broke out, and he contracted it as he treated the hundreds of stricken men, women, and children who had been left to die.

He was fortunate enough to recover, and from then on he extended his evangelizing efforts to include the Muslims. That was strictly forbidden, however, and so he was imprisoned  – twice. The second time he was condemned to a cruel death, but after hanging him out on a pole by driving his hand through an iron hook, and then turning him over to hang him in the same way by his foot, he was released.  He returned to Italy, and eventually to Leonessa, where he recovered and renewed his ministry with even greater zeal. His latter days were marred by a horrible cancer, which eventually killed him, but not until he had undergone multiple operations, his only anesthesia being his famed crucifix, which he held tightly all throughout the painful treatment.

I guess I rambled on there for a while.  What I wanted to suggest was that you bring your crucifix with you when you go off alone to pray.  Keeping the suffering Lord ever before the eyes of your heart will help you take advantage of your own hardships in order to further his kingdom in wonderful ways.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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