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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Your Field Guide to Flying Saints

Sep 18, 2017
Your Field Guide to Flying Saints

Today is the feast day of a saint best known for becoming so immersed in prayer that his feet literally left the ground. While amazing, this is by no means unique. There are many saints reputed to have this gift. Here are a few.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino. Our saint of the day, this Franciscan mystic is the most famous levitator on our list. Rumors of his habit of flying during prayer became so pervasive that his fellow friars were worried he'd become a spectacle of strangeness rather than a model of devotion, so they discouraged visitors and hushed the hype. Even so, Joseph had to be transferred several times to avoid unwanted attention. A humble and pious man, Joseph often wore heavy iron chains, though it is unclear whether these were chiefly meant to ground him spiritually or physically.

Saint Francis of Assisi. Yes, our beloved Saint Francis earns an honored place on this list. According to the "Little Flowers of St. Francis," Brother Leo would often visit Francis as he prayed on Mt. LaVerna.

Lost in prayer, Francis would hover above the ground, sometimes a few feet, sometimes as high as the beech trees, sometimes so high that Leo could scarcely see him.

When Francis was within reach, the devoted Brother Leo would kiss his feet and pray for the gift of such ardor.

You can find more great stories about Saint Francis in Omer Englebert's classic St. Francis of Assisi, or in the quick read, St. Francis: A Short Biography.

Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the reports that Saint Alphonsus Liguori could fly is that this is not the most amazing thing about him. Author of more than 100 books, he was also a painter, poet, and musician. And he was a bishop. And he founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists). All this was part of his second career; he had left a lucrative law practice to become a priest.

His zeal was not always popular, though. He suspended any priest who said Mass in less than 15 minutes, he sold his carriage and episcopal ring to benefit the poor, and the congregation he founded kicked him out.

The most popular writings of Saint Alphonsus are on devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. So, even if he can't get you closer to the sky, he can help you get closer to heaven.

If you want to follow in the footsteps of Saint Alphonsus, you can learn more about Our Lady in the timely Our Lady of Fatima, or the inspiring Mother Mary.

Saint Teresa of Avila. The original flying nun, Teresa of Avila was so prone to floating in midair that her sisters were sternly instructed to yank her down to the floor at the first sign of levitation. She would even weigh herself down with stones, to no avail. But Teresa was no lightweight. Founder of 17 reformed convents, she was savvy enough to pen deep theological works while steering clear of the flourishing Inquisition. She is the object of devotion for saints and sinners alike—Francisco Franco carried a relic (most of her hand) wherever he went, and Bernini created his most famous statue based on Teresa's own description of a prayer experience.

Interested in learning more about Saint Teresa? Check out Gina Loehr's The Four Teresas, which includes the stories of Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, and Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross), too!

Saint Thomas Aquinas. The author of one of the most comprehensive theological works in Christian history, Aquinas has been called both "Angelic Doctor" and "dumb ox." A witness claimed to see the great saint levitating during prayer before an image of Jesus, who said to Thomas, "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?" Thomas responded, "Nothing but you, Lord."

For more on saints, click here.

Saint of the Day

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