John Joseph was born to a noble family on the Island of Ischia in Southern Italy in 1654. Even in childhood he was a model of virtue. Though he could afford nice clothes, out of respect for the poor, John Joseph preferred to wear simple clothing. As a teenager of sixteen, he entered the Franciscan Order of the Strictest Observance (the Reform of St. Peter of Alcantara). John Joseph was the first Italian to join this reform, instituted in Spain. He fasted constantly, abstained from wine, and slept only three hours each night. He had been in the order for a little over three years when, because of his great piety, he was sent to establish a monastery in Piedmont. He helped build the monastery with his own hands.
Although he felt unworthy, he became a priest out of obedience. In 1702 he was appointed Vicar Provincial of the Alcantarine Reform in Italy. Even as superior, he still would insist on helping with the lowliest of chores. John Joseph was blessed with the gift of prophecy and miracles and had a great zeal for souls. Many came to be near him and to ask his blessings and prayers. He had a great devotion and love for the Blessed Mother and strove to cultivate this devotion in others. John Joseph died in Naples on March 5, 1734. He was canonized in 1839.
John Joseph lived the life of a true Franciscan, denying himself and serving others. At the end of his term as provincial, he spent his time hearing confessions and practicing mortification. Even in sickness, he denied himself rest to serve others. The more he mortified and humbled himself, the more Christ-like he became. As Jesus said, “I am among you as He that serves.”
St. John Joseph, we ask today for your mighty intercession, to pray for us that we learn humility and seek an attitude of service so we, too, may follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In His Mighty Name we pray, Amen.