The basis of these stories is that he probably did levitate. Certainly levitation is not unknown as one of the aspects of mystical experience. This article discusses the paranormal phenomenon more completely. Levitation of objects and people has been associated with demonic and poltergeist activity and a good number of other saints were known to levitate: St Teresa of Avila, St Padre Pio, St Martin de Porres, St Francis, St Alphonsus Ligouri and the Russian Orthodox St Seraphim of Sarov.
The lesson we take from the life of St Joseph of Cupertino is that the mystical life unlocks the truth that this physical world is stranger and more unpredictable than we can imagine. Reality is rubbery. It is not a closed system. “There are more things in heaven and earth than our philosophy has dreamt of.” This post explains that Weird things happen. If the world is not as predictable as we thought and there is an open ended aspect to it, then prayer, the sacraments and all that we believe as Catholics regarding the supernatural are valid possibilities.
Secondly, we learn not to take life (and especially ourselves too seriously). G.K.Chesterton said “The angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” The same can be said of St Joseph. He took himself lightly. He was humble therefore he was not heavy. He defied gravity because he was not grave. He levitated because of levity. I’m thinking of that scene in Mary Poppins where they visit Uncle Albert and float to the ceiling because they are laughing so much.
Thirdly, we learn once again through St Joseph of Cupertino that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty. The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. In worldly terms St Joseph of Cupertino was a fool, a failure and a flop. He was a nobody. He spent most of his life locked in a cell, moved from one religious house to another and suspected of being a fraud and even a witch. He made it to ordination by a mistake and seemed even as a priest to be useless.
God used his dedication and love. If he was mentally retarded or even mentally ill, God used that too. Did he fly? Most certainly.
Even if he had never levitated he flew. He was raised up because that’s the gospel principle: God raises up the lowly.
And with that thought I am inspired because God might just use a failure like me.