Saint John Joseph of the Cross

5 March

Ischia is a small picturesque island in the Gulf of Naples. Today it is a tourist attraction. In 1654 it was the birthplace of Carlo Gaetano Calosinto who was to become St. John Joseph of the Cross. He was of noble birth, but even as a young man he was known to strive to live a life of virtue, especially that of humility, insisting to put away the finery of dress of the time and dress like the poor people.

When he was 16 years old, he joined the Order of St. Francis of the Stricter Observance at Naples, changing his name to John Joseph of the Cross.  This was an Order of Friars that had been instituted by St. Peter of Alcantara in Spain.

As a friar he sought a way of life characterized by penance and prayer, fasting frequently, never drinking wine and sleeping only three hours at night.

He was only 20 years old when he was sent to Piedmont (in the north of Italy) to found a Friary. He helped in the actual building of this friary, joining the workmen in its construction. His superiors saw the deep spiritual qualities of John Joseph and insisted with him to accept being ordained priest, even though he had preferred to remain a simple friar. Once a priest, he was appointed novice master, taking under his spiritual guidance the new entrants to the Order. Soon after he was appointed superior of the Community at the Friary. Even while occupying this position, he continued to carry out the most humble chores, like helping in the kitchen and carrying water and wood to help out the friars.

By the time he was 48 years old he was appointed Vicar Provincial of the Alcantrine Community in Italy. He remained humble, not even wanting to be acknowledged as more than a simple friar when he stopped at inns in his travels while visiting convents under his care. He ordered that no beggar who comes to the gate of the convent should be sent away without being fed or helped in his needs. Quite often he would even give away his own portions of food.

He started to become known as a healer and people brought the sick to him to be healed. He never took credit for their healing but gave credit to the natural medical cures that he would have suggested.

Towards the end of his life he suffered apoplexy that hindered his mobility severely. Then he dedicated the rest of his life to giving spiritual guidance through the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He died at the age of 85.

The path of sainthood for St.John Joseph of the Cross, was paved with humility, penance and mortification, deep prayer and meditation.

We have just started Lent and we too are encouraged to practise these virtues during the weeks that lead up to Easter.

It is quite challenging to explain to the children the purpose and value of penance, (often termed as ‘sacrifice’) because it does not mean avoiding something that is not good but giving up something that is good!

We need to remember that these practices will in reality, help our children become responsible Christian adults, shape their behaviour, strengthen self-control,  by moving away from becoming self-centred while promoting the virtue of humility.

You might consider presenting the concept as ‘ training ourselves to be better people during these weeks.’

Discuss with the children what they can do during these weeks of Lent to become better persons by Easter!

Point out that these practices do not only include giving up sweets and chocolates, but it also involves good behaviour, acts of kindness and delaying instant gratification.

Consider discussing, as a family, a special ‘sacrifice’ to be practiced for each week of Lent.

Prepare a card/A4 sheet and in the centre print/write the good practice of that week. Have a packet of ’stars’ available! Encourage children to stick a star every time they achieve the proposed ‘sacrifice’ of the week.

During these weeks of Lent, you might consider introducing a practice of simple reflection on Bible Stories.

Remind the children of the Nativity Stories that we have experienced not long ago. Explain how during these coming weeks we see Jesus as a young man, with his friends, talking to the people about God, working miracles.

Once a week, choose a miracle or a parable from the Children’s Bible or follow-up with the Gospel reading of that particular Sunday. After reading/relating the extract, ask the children who they would have liked to be in that situation, how they would have felt, thought, what they would have asked, said to Jesus, to the others.

You might provide a scrapbook where they can draw/write about these reflections. Give the scrapbook a title!>

Make Family Prayer Time special during Lent.

  • Light a candle ~ Prepare a shrine.
  • Choose to pray chaplets from the Mysteries of Light and the Sorrowful Mysteries
  • For the older children, introduce anecdotes from the Way of the Cross.

Make up a Family Prayer:


Jesus loves all people, He wants us to love others too,

When we hurt others we hurt Him too!

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.