March 5: Saint John Joseph of the Cross
Self-denial is never an end in itself but is only a help toward greater charity—as the life of Saint John Joseph shows.
John Joseph was very ascetic even as a young man. He devoted himself even at his youngest years to a life of poverty and fasting. At 16 he joined the Franciscans in Naples; he was the first Italian to follow the reform movement of Saint Peter Alcantara. John’s reputation for holiness prompted his superiors to put him in charge of establishing a new friary even before he was ordained.
Obedience moved John to accept appointments as novice master, guardian and, finally, provincial. His years of mortification enabled him to offer these services to the friars with great charity. As guardian, he saw himself with no higher privilege and insisted on working in the kitchen or carrying the wood and water needed by the friars.
When his term as provincial expired, John Joseph dedicated himself to hearing confessions and practicing mortification, two concerns contrary to the spirit of the dawning Age of Enlightenment. John Joseph was canonized in 1839 and he is the patron saint of Ischilia, Italy, the place where he was born.