Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 04 August |
Saint of the Day: St. John Vianney
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

St. Joseph of Cupertino said he was going to Hell but this child knew the truth


Wellcome Images | CC BY 4.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 09/18/19

He couldn't hide his holiness from the innocence of a child.

St. Joseph of Cupertino was a holy Franciscan saint who lived in the 17th century. He was so close to God that he often experienced extraordinary graces, such as levitation during Mass and heavenly aromas surrounding him wherever he went.

Read more:
5 Saints who could fly

However, he tried to hide these spiritual gifts from his fellow Franciscan brothers and often referred to himself as “brother ass.” Even though people would flock from all over Italy to see him, St. Joseph never liked the attention. He loved and craved solitude and wanted to have the most mundane tasks in the monastery.

An episode from his life highlights this humility and how he feverishly tried to keep himself from being overly prideful.

One day he was instructed by his superior to visit the home of a woman who was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (today known as the Secular Franciscans). A biography of St. Joseph of Cupertino written by Angelo Pastrovicchi details the humorous exchange that happened next.

While there, another Tertiary came on a visit with her child, about three years of age. Joseph caressed the child, placed it on a chair, and said, “Little one, repeat after me: ‘Brother Joseph is a great sinner and, when he dies, he will go to hell.’But the child, hardly able to speak distinctly and unable to understand the meaning of the words, replied clearly and distinctly, “Brother Joseph is a great saint and, when he dies, he will go to Paradise.”The saint rejoined with seeming anger: “Will you not speak as I prompt you? Now, say as I do, ‘Brother Joseph is a great sinner.'” But the child repeated his former words, “Brother Joseph is a great saint.”Joseph [then] said, “Will you not say as I do?” and again prompted, “Brother Joseph is a great sinner and, when he dies, he will go to hell.” But the child repeated a third time, “Brother Joseph is a great saint, and, when he dies, he will go to Paradise.”Those present were touched unto tears and convinced that God had wished, by the mouth of an innocent child, to reward and exalt Joseph because of his humility.

While St. Joseph didn’t think very highly of himself, others could see clearly through his attempts to avert people’s attention away from him. They knew that he was a saint and his sanctity could not be kept under a bushel basket. His holiness was an inspiration and even the littlest child could see it.

This exchange also reminds us to never think too highly of ourselves, lest we be puffed up with spiritual pride. While we don’t always have to go as far as St. Joseph of Cupertino and think we are going to Hell, we should acknowledge our own sinfulness and constantly strive to attain perfection.


Read more:
Here’s what happened when St. Joseph of Cupertino found sheep without a shepherd

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Saint Mary of the Angels
Bret Thoman, OFS
All your sins will be forgiven if you go to a Franciscan church o...
Philip Kosloski
Most priests can’t absolve these sins
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
Cerith Gardiner
Nightbirde’s beautiful message as she drops out of TV show
Gianmarco Tamberi AND Mutaz Essa Barshim
Cerith Gardiner
This Olympic event captures the true meaning of the Games
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.