The patron saint for struggling students suffered from severe learning disabilities
Born in Puglia, Italy, in 1603, Joseph dealt with severe learning disabilities which – with the help of Heaven – did not prevent him from attaining the priesthood.
His father died before his birth and Joseph’s debt-ridden mother gave birth to him in a stable. From the age of five, the boy applied himself to devout prayer, often remaining motionless, with his eyes raised to the sky, which earned him the nickname “Bocca aperto” (“mouth agape”). At 17, Joseph became a Capuchin, but his intellectual impairments and frequent ecstasies made him unsuitable. His mother, whose brother was a conventual Franciscan, used her influence to eventually have him admitted to a friary near Cupertino.
At Cupertino, Joseph was put in charge of the care of the community’s mule, but his cheerful obedience eventually won over his superiors who, despite his illiteracy, were so struck by the young man’s piety and obedience that they received him as a candidate for the priesthood.
All unschooled, Joseph remained unable to explain a single text of the bible except verse 27 of Luke, Chapter 11: As Jesus said this, a woman raised her voice in the crowd saying, “Blessed is the mother who bore you into it, and whose breasts have fed you!”
On January 3, 1627, Bishop Jerome of Franchis presided over an oral examination required for entrance exam to the minor orders. In choosing a theme, the bishop opened the Bible at random and landed precisely upon Luke 11:27. To his surprise, Joseph made a brilliant commentary on the verse and was permitted to advance.
A year later, Joseph – by then a deacon – asked to be received into the priesthood. The first applications presented for review by Bishop de Castro were so impressive that the bishop decided the whole class must be similarly gifted, and admitted all of the candidates to ordination. Thus Joseph was ordained in 1628, having been exempted from exams he probably could not have passed.
So if you know someone who is sweating out his or her finals, pass along this prayer, and tell them to seek out Saint Joseph’s intercession for their academic intentions.
Prayer before an exam
O holy Joseph of Cupertino, who loves to bestow your favors upon all in need of your assistance, I implore your help with my studies and upcoming examinations. Despite my hard work and good will, I am anxious about these tests, and how I will perform. Remember, Saint Joseph, that you too endured a similar difficulty and that through obedience and the powerful protection of your spiritual father, you were providentially helped toward your calling and vocation.
Remember that you found yourself in the same difficulty and that through obedience and the powerful protection of your spiritual father you came out providentially well.
I beg your assistance now; help me to be confident in my testing, and prompt and alert in all of my answers. I ask your prayers for my intention, in the name of Jesus, and also with a special supplication to Mary and Saint Francis, your Holy Father.
O patron saint of academic examinations, I am convinced that my hope in your prayerful assistance will not be disappointed. Amen
Translated and adapted from the French
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