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John Joseph of the Cross

(1654—1734)


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Peter Martyr (1499—1562)

 

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Franciscan friar (1654–1734).

Born Carlo Gaetano into a large and devout family in Ischia (near Naples), he wished to become a Franciscan, being specially attracted to two friars of the strict branch of Peter of Alcantara. At the age of sixteen he received the habit at Santa Lucia del Monte, Naples. At the age of only twenty-one he was placed in charge of a foundation at Piedimonte di Alife. Reluctantly he was ordained priest in 1677. He soon became known as an exceptional confessor and director, and he built hermitages for his community for periods of prayer and penance. Recalled to Naples as novice-master for two years, he returned to Piedimonte as superior. Here he took on the most menial tasks and asked to be released from authority: this was granted in 1681, but he was re-elected guardian in 1684.

In 1702 friction between Spaniards and Italians arose, made worse by a papal decision that all important offices should be held by Spaniards. The Spanish retained the two largest houses in Naples before withdrawing to Spain and John Joseph successfully appealed to the Holy See to set up an Italian province. This was achieved with John Joseph as minister-provincial. He acted calmly but strongly, strengthening discipline, reorganizing studies, and making new foundations. When all was settled, he obtained exemption from future office.

In 1722 the two houses in Naples were restored to Italian rule. John Joseph thus returned to the house he had entered and devoted his final years to spiritual direction: 40 of his letters survive. He was followed in the streets by crowds who even wished to cut off pieces of his tattered habit. When he died soon after a stroke on 5 March, a cult arose, centred on his relics at Santa Lucia del Monte. In 1790 he was declared patron of Naples: he was beatified in 1789 and canonized in 1839. Feast: 5 March.

A. Salvatore, S. Giovan Giuseppe della Croce nel Centenario della nascita (1954); Bibl. SS., vi. 1009–12; B.L.S., iii. 48–9.

Subjects: Christianity.


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