St. Joseph of Cupertino

He was born Giuseppe Maria Desa, the son of Felice Desa and Francesca Panara in the village of Cupertino, then in the Province of Apulia, in the Kingdom of Naples, now in the Italian Province of Lecce. His father having died before his birth, however, the family home was seized to settle the large debts he had left, and his mother was forced to give birth to him in a stable.

Joseph began to experience ecstatic visions as a child, which were to continue throughout his life, and made him the object of scorn. His life was not helped by his frequent outbursts of anger. He was soon apprenticed by his uncle to a shoemaker. Feeling drawn to religious life, in 1620 he applied to the Conventual Franciscan friars, but was rejected due to his lack of education. He then applied to the Capuchin friars in Martino, near Taranto, by whom he was accepted in 1620 as a lay brother, but he was dismissed as his continued ecstasies made him unfit for the duties required of him.

After Joseph returned to the scorn of his family, he pleaded with the Conventual friars near Cupertino to be allowed to serve in their stables. After several years of working there, he had so impressed the friars with the devotion and simplicity of his life that he was admitted to their Order, destined to become a Catholic priest, in 1625. He was ordained a priest on March 28, 1628. He was then sent to the Madonna delle Grazie, Gravina in Puglia, where he spent the next 15 years.

After this point, the occasions of ecstasy in Joseph’s life began to multiply. It was claimed that he began to levitate while participating at the Mass or joining the community for the Divine Office, thereby gaining a widespread reputation of holiness among the people of the region and beyond. He was deemed disruptive by his religious superiors and Church authorities, however, and eventually was confined to a small cell, forbidden from joining in any public gathering of the community.

As the phenomenon of flying or levitation was widely believed to be connected with witchcraft, Joseph was denounced to the Inquisition. At their command, he was transferred from one Franciscan friary in the region to another for observation, first to Assisi (1639–1653), then briefly to Pietrarubbia and finally Fossombrone, where he lived with and under the supervision of the Capuchin friars (1653–57). He practiced a severe asceticism throughout his life, usually eating solid food only twice a week, and adding bitter powders to his meals. He passed 35 years of his life following this regimen.

Finally, on 9 July 1657, Joseph was allowed to return to a Conventual community, being sent to the one in Osimo, where he soon died.

Joseph was beatified in 1753 and canonized in 1767.  His feast day is Sept.18.

“Servant of God, Set the example !
Preach by actions more than by words.
Actions penetrate the heart,
words slip by and are gone.”
(St. Joseph of Cupertino, OFM, Conv.)

Response to the Pennsylvania Report on Sexual Abuse

A Pastoral Message from the Presiding Bishop
and College of Bishops

Response to the Pennsylvania Report on Sexual Abuse

As Presiding Bishop, I feel I must respond to yet another round of horrific discoveries regarding the abuse of children in the Roman church. The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America abhors the abuse and suffers with the victims.

There have been many people, knowledgeable and not, responding to why this abuse has gone on so long. Some see it as power issues in the church, some see celibacy as the cause, some see it as the lack of women in Catholic ministry. I can speak for the Catholic Apostolic Church when I say that we have made every attempt to see that we have no clergy that would abuse. All of our clergy undergo psychological testing before ordination or admittance. From the beginning almost seventy years ago, St. Charles of Brazil, our founder, saw the need for a married clergy and put that into practice. Since 2000 we have invited women to share in the priesthood. Our Bishops are few and deal primarily with the religious growth of the Church, leaving the laity to most of the daily running of the Church. The “power” is also shared by all. We are presently putting into place a committee that will advise us on how to ensure the safety of children in the care of anyone in our church, clergy or lay.

One of the positive things about an independent Catholic Church is that we are able to make changes that the Roman Church would take years to undertake. We are already doing what so many Roman theologians are suggesting for our brothers and sisters in the Roman church.

Finally, we also pray for those who have been abused and pray that the leaders of the Roman church take the steps to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again. It is never the intention of an independent church to steal members away from the Roman church. We exist as an alternative to those who cannot wait for change that may never happen in their lifetimes. We exist for those who have been shut out by the traditions of the Roman church, or who have felt disenfranchised by them. We, too, are not perfect, but we strive to find perfection in the modeling of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Yours in Christ
Ronald Stephens, Presiding Bishop of CACINA
and the College of Bishops
Copyright © 2018, Catholic Apostolic Church in North America, All rights reserved.

She persists

(July 22nd – Feast day of Mary of Magdala)

By Meghan J. Clark – she is an associate professor of theology at St. John’s University in New York. She is author of The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: The Virtue of Solidarity and the Praxis of Human Rights 

In February I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The sights and sounds of Galilee were captivating. Sitting on the Sea of Galilee, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus walk on water, to hear him preach or call my name. As we traveled through Capernaum and Nazareth to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, it felt as if we were with those first disciples looking for Jesus and praying to understand. In these places I found myself accompanied by someone I’d long admired: Mary of Magdala.

Readers of Scripture first meet Mary Magdalene during Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry in Galilee as someone healed “from whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:2). Later all the gospels mention her in the litany of women who traveled with Jesus to Jerusalem. All four gospels name her as a witness to both the crucifixion and the empty tomb. In John’s gospel Mary Magdalene is the first person to meet the resurrected Jesus and is thus charged with telling the others. For this she is given the title “Apostle to the Apostles.”

In a world where women were not considered reliable witnesses, it is women upon whom our knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus relies. The women of the gospels, especially Magdalene, have long been maligned, minimized, or simply missing from the way we envision Jesus’ followers.

I have spent almost all my life in Catholic education, starting with preschool. In grade school we learned about Mary Magdalene, but even in the last 20 years Catholic school children are still taught long-debunked stereotypes about the women to whom Jesus first appeared. It was not until my freshman year in college that I learned that there is no biblical evidence for labeling Mary Magdalene a prostitute. The gospel message of mercy is unequivocal and there are accounts of prostitutes healed and forgiven by Jesus. But there is no biblical evidence to say Mary of Magdala was one of them. So why the persistent need to sexualize her? In light of the #MeToo movement, is it really that shocking that she’s so quickly reduced to a symbol of sex?

Mary Magdalene has long fascinated believers and secular society. Can men and women truly be friends? Long before When Harry Met Sally . . .believers and nonbelievers alike have struggled with Mary of Magdala and her friendship with Jesus of Nazareth.

Even today, at the excavation site of the first-century synagogue at Magdala, the women of the gospels occupy the small side chapels of the worship center, the central space reserved for Peter. In the very place Mary Magdalene likely heard Jesus preach for the first time, she and the other women witnesses still remain on the periphery.

“Indeed,” says Pope Francis in his new exhortation on holiness, “in times when women tended to be most ignored or overlooked, the Holy Spirit raised up saints whose attractiveness produced new spiritual vigor and important reforms in the church. . . . But I think too of all those unknown or forgotten women who, each in her own way, sustained and transformed families and communities by the power of their witness.” Beginning with Magdalene and continuing through Christian history, women persist, but their contributions are often ignored. As I walked the way of the cross in their footsteps, I prayed in gratitude. Their fidelity and witness continue to teach us what it means to be a pilgrim church called to follow God. Even today, as she walks with us in faith, she persists.

July 22nd – Feast day of Mary of Magdala

Franciscans of Fort Lauderdale at the ball park

The Franciscans of Fort Lauderdale from the Parish of Sts. Francis and Clare attends the Florida Marlins Bark in the Park.


A letter from our Bishop

The College of Bishops of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA) would like to make clear our position that any attempt to take children and separate them from their parents is grievously wrong. The present situation that exists on our southern border should be immediately stopped and the children returned to their parents. These are not criminals, nor are their parents who have followed the laws and sought asylum.
From both a secular and religious perspective what is presently happening is wrong and damaging to children. Psychology has shown the enormous impact of lack of bonding and attachment on the later life of children. Bruce Perry, PhD and MD (2018) from the Child Trauma Academy states “many researchers and clinicians feel that the maternal-child attachment provides the framework for all subsequent relationships that the child will develop.” Breaking the bond between parent and child is not only cruel when it is forced, but will create many problems later for the child and for society.
From a political point of view it is egregious to use children as pawns to frighten away immigrants or for negotiation purposes so the President can get something he wants from Congress. Children are precious commodities, not bargaining chips.
From a religious standpoint, there could be nothing more abominable than to hurt children by taking them away from their only support and love. Jesus was very clear on his teachings about the value of children and the consequences for hurting them. He said, “Whoever receives this child in My name, receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives the One who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great” (Lk 9:48). In Matthew, Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of my father who is in heaven” (18:10) and a few verses later has this severe command, “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (8:14). Any time there are attempts to justify the present government’s actions biblically are a misuse of scripture and an abomination of Jesus’ intent. Thus, we the Bishops of CACINA feel that the immigration policies of the United States government are severely unjust, and in particular, the separation of children taking place on our southern border and the negligent treatment of these children. We implore the government to change these policies immediately for the sake of these children who are being so hurt, and the damage not be irreparable.
We urge our own people of CACINA to write their representatives, legislators, Congress and even the president to put the needs of children first, which is what a just society would do. At the same time, the Bishops continue to pray and to join with the many Christian groups across this country who oppose what is happening. We add our voice to theirs.
Most Rev. Ronald Stephens
Presiding Bishop
Catholic Apostolic Church in North America

6 leadership lessons of St. Francis

by mbenefiel

As I walked on pilgrimage this month in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi, I pondered what I could learn from him about leadership.  Like all of us, Francis scored some wins and some losses when it came to leadership.  And like all of us, Francis didn’t always know in advance what approach to leadership would prove effective.  As I reflect on Francis’ life, six lessons in leadership effectiveness stand out to me.

  1. Be true to yourself.  Francis traveled a number of paths before he found the one that was right for him.  The son of a successful cloth merchant in thirteenth-century Italy, Francis seemed destined for business success.  From playboy to soldier to knight to cloth merchant, Francis experimented with paths he thought might suit him.  It was only when he heard God’s call to rebuild the church that he discovered his true path.  Yet when he abandoned his father’s business and embraced poverty and service, the townspeople called him crazy.  For years he wandered through his native city following a path that no one understood.  In time, as he persevered in pursuing the way that was his to pursue, a few people caught his vision and began to follow him.  Eventually, his followers numbered in the thousands.  By being true to himself and persevering in the face of misunderstanding and mockery, Francis forged a new way that attracted thousands.
  2. Love God passionately.  Francis brought the passion of his former life to his love of God.  Not one for half measures, Francis fell utterly in love with God, and loved with abandon.  He roamed the countryside singing of his love, and he constantly sought ways to please God.
  3. Embrace all.  Francis learned early on that rebuilding God’s church meant embracing everyone.  He embraced the leper who represented the lowest caste in society.  When people began to follow his way, he embraced brothers from the highest class to the lowest, inviting them to live together in simplicity and community.  When Clare ran away from home in order to follow him, he embraced her and helped her establish a women’s order.  Francis learned to see the gifts that each person brought and to embrace people with gratitude for their contributions.
  4. Live with joy.   Francis lived with contagious joy.  His delight in the beauty of nature, in the uniqueness of each person, in the gifts of God, drew people to him.  Even in adversity, Francis lived with joy.  For example, when a hut in which he took refuge for a night proved to be infested with mice, after an initial expression of displeasure, Francis welcomed his “brother mice” with joy and hospitality.  His joy disarmed friends and detractors alike.
  5. Approach power courageously. Francis, the “little poor man of Assisi,” decided early in his ministry that he and his tiny band of brothers should approach the Pope to ask for his blessing on their way of life.  Undaunted by Pope Innocent III’s wealth and power in contrast to their outcast status, the rag-tag band walked from Assisi to Rome.  Rebuffed by the cardinals when they arrived, they persevered in seeking an audience with the Pope.  After the Pope had a dream in which he saw a little poor man holding up a huge church, he realized he needed to talk to Francis.  Francis and the brothers, fearless before the Pope, described their way of life as living the gospel as Jesus intended.  The Pope, impressed by their sincerity and commitment, gave his provisional blessing.
  6. Reach across differences. The Crusades broke Francis’ heart.  He hated seeing Christians fighting Muslims over the holy land.  In 1219, he traveled to Egypt where the battle was raging, and crossed enemy lines, unarmed, in order to speak with the Ottoman Sultan.  He hoped to find common ground, and risked his life to do so.  He boldly spoke to the Sultan and the Sultan listened attentively.  Though he didn’t achieve reconciliation, the two men left the encounter with mutual respect and admiration.

St. Francis, not always knowing what he was doing, discovered how to be an effective leader as he followed his calling.  Much of his success in leadership was a side effect of his faithfulness.

St. Francis displayed a great deal of love and courage during his lifetime, and he influenced many people through his example.  His life, teachings, and spiritual insights have attracted many followers through the years.  His teachings are timeless and continue to live on today.

Note: Francis also suffered a number of failures in leadership which can also prove instructive (to be explored in a subsequent reflection).

St. Patrick’s Day meal & Spring Fling



May God bless you with Discomfort. . .
at easy answers, and half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with Anger. . .
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people
so that you may work for justice, freedom. and peace.

May God bless you with Tears. . .
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness. . .
to believe that you can make a difference in their world, so that you
can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen

Word from our Bishop

“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them…” (Mt 19:14)

A CACINA Response to the School Shootings

There is little more to be said about the school shootings from a newsworthy point of view other than that the tide seems to be turning. In the past, we would mourn the tragedy and soon forget about doing anything about it. It has become clear that our representatives have been bought by the NRA through campaign donations and they are not about to look that gift horse in the mouth. But they are starting to. What has changed?
The teenagers at Parkland are older than the survivors at Sandy Hook. With age and education, they have realized that they have a voice and that they are going to use it. We support their movement fully.
Jesus said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mt. 18:1-5) The “children” at Parkland are able to see things through the eyes of some innocence and they have not yet been corrupted by many of the values of our generations. Many of us despair of being able to do anything, and so we sit and watch the news and maybe gripe to our friends, but we don’t do anything.
It is time for us to join with the voices from Parkland – those dead and those living – to call our representatives to account, to study the issue fully, to look at what other countries have done and realize that there are answers that we have been too blind to see.
We can prevent other tragedies like this from happening, and it isn’t by more guns.  Arming teachers and armed guards are not the answer. They didn’t help at Parkland and won’t help elsewhere.
Please join me and my fellow Bishops and make your priorities known to your representatives and, if they don’t listen, work to remove them and find someone who will. Think about leadership yourselves. Take on the fresh dreams of the young and do not be complacent. We can not afford to let this momentum die but push for real change through prayer and action. We have prayed and prayed. The time for action is now.

The College of Bishops

Most Rev. Ronald Stephens
Presiding Bishop
The Catholic Apostolic Church of North America