XXXI. SOUTHERN SAINTLINESS
His love of poverty, moreover, was so intense that even after his death a picture of him, which his relatives had tried to attach to the wall in loving remembrance, repeatedly fell down again, although nailed very securely; nor did it remain fixed until they realized that its costly gilt frame was objectionable to the saint in heaven, and accordingly removed it. No wonder the infant Jesus was pleased to descend from the breast of Mary and take rest for several hours in the arms of Saint Giangiuseppe, who, on being disturbed by some priestly visitor, exclaimed, "O how I have enjoyed holding the Holy Babe in my arms!" This is an old and favourite motif; it occurs, for example, in the Fioretti of Saint Francis; there are precedents, in fact, for all these divine favours.
But his distinguishing feature, his "dominating gift," was that of prophecy, especially in foretelling the deaths of children, "which he almost always accompanied with jocular words (scherzi) on his lips." He would enter a house and genially remark: "O, what an odour of Paradise "; sooner or later one or more of the children of the family would perish. To a boy of twelve he said, "Be good, Natale, for the angels are coming to take you." These playful words seem to have weighed considerably on the boy's mind and, sure enough, after a few years he died. But even more charming - piu grazioso, the biographer calls it - was the incident when he once asked a father whether he would give his son to Saint Pasquale. The fond parent agreed, thinking that the words referred to the boy's future career in the Church. But the saint meant something quite different - he meant a career in heaven! And in less than a month the child died. To a little girl who was crying in the street he said: "I don't want to hear you any more. Go and sing in Paradise." And meeting her a short time after, he said, "What, are you still here?" In a few days she was dead.
The biography gives many instances of this pretty gift which would hardly have contributed to the saint's popularity in England or any other country save this, where - although the surviving youngsters are described as "struck with terror at the mere name of the Servant of God" - the parents were naturally glad to have one or two angels in the family, to act as avvocati (pleaders) for those that remained on earth.
And the mention of the legal profession brings me to one really instructive miracle. It is usually to be observed, after a saint has been canonized, that heaven, by some further sign or signs, signifies approval of this solemn act of the Vicar of God; indeed, to judge by these biographies, such a course is not only customary but, to use a worldly expression, de rigueur. And so it happened after the decree relative to Saint Giangiuseppe had been pronounced in the Vatican basilica by His Holiness Pius VI, in the presence of the assembled cardinals. Innumerable celestial portents (their enumeration fills eleven pages of the "Life") confirmed and ratified the great event, and among them this: the notary, who had drawn up both the ordinary and the apostolic processi, was cured of a grievous apoplexy, survived for four years, and finally died on the very anniversary of the death of the saint. Involuntarily one contrasts this heavenly largesse with the sordid guineas which would have contented an English lawyer. . . .
Or glance into the biography of the Venerable Sister Orsola Benincasa. She, too, could fly a little and raise men from the dead. She cured diseases, foretold her own death and that of others, lived for a month on the sole nourishment of a consecrated wafer; she could speak Latin and Polish, although she had been taught nothing at all; wrought miracles after death, and possessed to a heroic degree the virtues of patience, humility, temperance, justice, etc. etc. So inflamed was she with divine love, that almost every day thick steam issued out of her mouth, which was observed to be destructive to articles of clothing; her heated body, when ice was applied, used to hiss like a red-hot iron under similar conditions.