St Joseph of Copertino
Franciscan priest. Patron saint of pilots and airline passengers. Saint Joseph was such an extraordinary saint, his fellow Christians found him hard to cope with.
He was born in a garden shed in 1603, near Brindizi in Italy. The family were very poor. Joseph's mother was widowed very early and resented her son. He spent an unhappy childhood, winning the nickname 'the gaper' for wandering about with his mouth open.
St Joseph was attracted to the religious life but initially was rejected because he was so strange and clumsy. Eventually the Franciscans at La Grotella accepted him as a stableboy. He soon learned to accomplish everything he was told and was allowed to become a monk. By 1628 he was ordained priest.
From this point on however, St Joseph begin to manifest very unusual behaviour. Barely a day went by without him falling into an ecstatic state or levitating in front of many witnesses. When carpenters came to place a cross above the alter he flew 35 feet into the air to help them. He also had an astonishing affinity with birds and animals, literally charming them out of the trees.
Because of these phenomena, people started coming to see Joseph, causing considerable disturbance to the community. Eventually they banned him from the choir and the refectory. For a while the Neapolitan Inquisition examined him but could find nothing to charge him with. He was ordered to visit Pope Urban VIII, and fell into an ecstasy as soon as he entered the room.
For 13 years Joseph was sent to Assisi. When people learnt that he was there and the crowds began, he was moved to a remote friary in Petrarossa, and then another in Fossombrone.
In 1655 his old community petitioned for his return to them and he was allowed to live out his last few years in seclusion with them.
St Joseph died in 1663, the object of official reserve and great popular veneration. He was canonised in 1767, not for his levitations and ecstasies, but for his great patience and humility. He has been compared with John of the Cross and Padre Pio.
He is a patron saint of pilots, astronauts, airline passengers, people with a mental handicap, people taking exams and poor students.
See a 1962 film on his life here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2O8WmVlOUk
St Gerard Majella
Lay brother. Born in 1725, in Basilica, Italy, Gerard trained and worked in his father's trade as a tailor before joining the Redemptorist noviciate at Deliceto in 1749. St Alphonsus Liguori recognised his extraordinary spirituality and ordered that he be professed early. Although he worked in ordinary jobs, as a porter and a gardener, his life was marked by a series of extraordinary phenomena, including ecstasies, bilocation, prophesies, healings and the ability to read people's hearts. He was exceptionally caring to the poor and those with troubles. Though he never became a priest, clergy and communities of nuns came to seek his advice and spiritual direction.
Gerard died of TB in 1755, when he was just 29. He was beatified in Rome on January 29, 1893, by Pope Leo XIII, and canonised less than twelve years later on December 11, 1904, by Pope Saint Pius X. Pope Pius X praised him as the patron and model of lay brothers in their humble hidden lives. Paradoxically, he was acclaimed the 'most famous wonder worker of the 18th century.'
His intercession is sought for children, unborn children, women in childbirth, mothers, expectant mothers, motherhood, falsely accused people, good confessions, lay brothers and Muro Lucano, Italy.
One miracle in particular explains why Majella became known as the special patron of mothers. A few months before his death, Gerard visited the Pirofalo family and accidentally dropped his handkerchief. One of the Pirofalo girls spotted the handkerchief moments after he'd left the house, and she ran after Gerard to return it. "Keep it," he said to her. "You may need it some day".
Years later when the girl--now a married woman--was on the verge of losing her life in childbirth, she remembered the words of the saintly lay brother. She asked for the handkerchief to be brought to her. Almost immediately the pain disappeared and she gave birth to a healthy child. This was no small feat in an era when only one out of three pregnancies resulted in a live birth, and word of the miracle spread quickly. Because of the miracles God worked through Gerard's prayers with mothers, the mothers of Italy took Gerard to their hearts and made him their patron. At the process of his beatification one witness testified that he was known as "il santo dei felice parti"--the saint of happy childbirth.
This devotion has become very popular in North America, both in the United States and Canada.
In 1977, St. Gerard's Chapel in St. Lucy's Church, Newark, New Jersey, was dedicated as a national shrine. Each year during the Feast days which include October 16, there are the traditional lights, music, food stands and the street procession. Devotees visit the Shrine also throughout the year to pray to and petition the help of St Gerard.
The St Gerard Majella Annual Novena takes place every year in St Josephs Church, Dundalk, Ireland.