Saint Joseph of Leonissa

Saint of the Day for 2/4

Joseph avoided the safe compromises by which people sometimes undercut the gospel. Born at Leonissa in the Kingdom of Naples, Joseph joined the Capuchins in his hometown in 1573. Denying himself hearty meals and comfortable quarters, he prepared for ordination and a life of preaching.

In 1587, he went to Constantinople to take care of the Christian galley slaves working under Turkish masters. Imprisoned for this work, he was warned not to resume it on his release. He did and was again imprisoned and then condemned to death. Miraculously freed, he returned to Italy where he preached to the poor and reconciled feuding families as well as warring cities which had been at odds for years. He was canonized in 1746.

Saints often jar us because they challenge our ideas about what we need for “the good life.” “I’ll be happy when. . . ,” we may say, wasting an incredible amount of time on the periphery of life. People like Joseph of Leonissa challenge us to face life courageously and get to the heart of it: life with God. Joseph was a compelling preacher because his life was as convincing as his words.