Today’s saint was born Eufranio Desiderio at Leonessa, a small town in central Italy. He was particularly religious even as a child, gathering companions and inducing them to pray with him.
Eufranio was educated by his uncle, who had planned a suitable marriage for him, but in his 16th year he fell sick of a fever, and upon his recovery, without consulting his guardian, he joined the Capuchin reform of the Franciscan Order. He made his novitiate at the friary of the Carcerelle near Assisi.
Friar Joseph was well known for his abstinence. In fact, in 1599, in preparation for the following Jubilee year, he fasted the whole year in preparation of receiving the indulgence.
In 1587 he was sent Constantinople to minister to the Christians held captive there. Arrived there he and his companions lodged in such poverty that the friars attracted the attention of the Turks, who went in numbers to see the new missionaries. He was very solicitous in ministering to the captive Christians in the galleys of the Ottoman Empire’s navy. Every day he went into the city to preach. Displeasing the authorities, Joseph thrown into prison and only released at the intervention of the Venetian agent.
None of that deterred Joseph’s zeal. He was determined to enter the palace to preach before Sultan Murad III but was seized and condemned to death. For three days he hung on the gallows, held up by two hooks driven through his right hand and foot. Legends state that he was then miraculously released by an angel.
Returning to Italy, Joseph took up the work of home missions in his native province, sometimes preaching six or seven times a day.
In the jubilee year of 1600, he gave the Lenten sermons at Otricoli, a town through which crowds of pilgrims passed on their way to Rome. Many of them being very poor, Joseph supplied them with food; he also washed their clothes and cut their hair. At Todi he cultivated with his own hands a garden, the produce of which was for the poor.
He died at Amatrice in 1612.
He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746. His feast day is kept on Feb. 4, within the Franciscan Order. In his hometown, there is a church and sanctuary of San Giuseppe da Leonessa. The main street is called the Corso San Giuseppe, after him. Devotion to him is mostly local to central Italy; churches at Otricoli and San Lorenzo Nuovo contain paintings of him.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: Online, C. (n.d.). St. Joseph of Leonissa – Saints & Angels. Catholic Online. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4084