The Reluctant Saint (1962) Catholic Bard Movie Review

The Reluctant Saint (1962) Catholic Bard Movie Review January 24, 2024

St. Joseph of Cupertino (June 17,1603 – September 18, 1663) could easily be the patron saint of slapstick comedians.   This young man resembles the kind of character you might find in a Jerry Lewis, Laurel &  Hardy or Mr. Bean picture.  He’s not that bright,  is scorned at by the well to do, and seems to destroy expensive and valuable items in his vicinity.  But in the end he comes out on top as an inspiring figure who has beat the odds and has achieved remarkable success in some way or other.  It is a compelling religious drama with lots of humorous touches, but could easily have been a great slapstick comedy (or even a musical) having great sight gags and physical comedy (and great musical numbers) and still retain its  Christian themes and tone. The great thing about this particular film however is that it is based on a real person and real events and not a character created by a talented comedian.

‘The Reluctant Saint’  (1962) (could easily have been ‘The Unlikely Saint) paints a picture of what God can do with a humble soul who desires nothing but to serve  Him despite anything negative that might happen in their lives. This makes the picture worth watching coupled with the overall artistic quality of the film.  The No. 1 virtue of The Reluctant Saint is humility.  Humility naturally pushes Ego out the door of the soul, thus it doesn’t get in the way of the Holy Spirit, who can then  perform the impossible.  And that is what he does in JOC’s  (Maximilian Schell)  life. Despite his clumsy bumbling (including destroying a vineyard and a 200 ft. statue of the virgin Mary), mistreatment by others, (including his own loving italian mama, the youths of the village, and fellow brother monks), and poor academic skills, he manages  to  make friends with important people of serious rank and authority. Which leads to the impossible.
Although not being too bright he gets enough theology to explain the Trinity to Bishop Durso (Akim Tamiroff), the vicar-general of the Franciscan order visiting the Franciscan monastery where JOC  is at.
“One blanket and one, two, three folds. Three folds in one blanket – three persons in one God, like the Trinity.”
Come on Patrick!
This lesson of truth and his tender delivery and care of two baby lambs earns him the respect and friendship of the good bishop who then basically makes him a priest despite his poor academic studies. His favorite bible passage Luke 15 about the lost sheep, comes in handy on his  rather short road to the ordained life.
By making friends with the virgin Mary and offering her respect he ends up with the ability of levitation (or flight).  When you know the right people in high places, the things you can do.  These special gifts never inflate his ego, he would still rather sleep in the barn with the animals instead of the nice comfortable cell that he gets.
Despite displays of holiness, humility and sanctity,  some of this brother monks still dislike JOC as if he was a piece of foot fungus they wanted to get rid off.  Chief members of the anti JOC fan club include the hunchbacked stable hand Gobbo (Carlo Croccolo) and one of the head monks Don Raspi (Ricardo Montalban).  They create an antagonistic atmosphere around JOC, enabling him to transcend their smug pride by hovering above it.
You shouldn’t be reluctant to rent, buy or watch ‘The Reluctant Saint’. It is a reminder that the unlikely and reluctant are the very ones that God wishes to use as an example of who  he is looking for to join the ranks of the inspiring men and women we call saints. The film is also a reminder that great inspiring Christian films do actually exist.
St. Joseph of Cupertino pray for us.
St. Joseph of Copertino is lifted in flight at the site of the Basilica of Loreto,
by Ludovico Mazzanti (18th century)

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