March 23 – Saint Joseph Oriol – Wonder-worker of Barcelona

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St. Joseph, giving alms in front of his parish in Barcelona.

Saint Joseph Oriol was born in Barcelona, Spain in the year 1650, to a poor working-class family. Even though his father died while he was still a boy, he was able to go to school and receive an education. He then went on to study at the University of Barcelona and received a Theology Degree in 1674. In 1676, he was ordained a priest.

For the first ten years of his priesthood, he served as a tutor for a wealthy family in Spain. But something stirred in him and he felt that God was calling him to serve in a more robust manner so he joined the Oratorians of Barcelona. In 1686, shortly after the death of his mother, he set out on a pilgrimage for Rome. He traveled by foot and stayed in Rome for eight months. It was during this time in Rome that Pope Innocent XI granted him a benefice at Santa Maria del Pino (Our Lady of the Pines), Barcelona, a parish he wound up serving for the rest of his life.

In April of 1698 he felt a longing in his soul to travel and serve the Lord in bigger ways by offering to serve as a missionary …willing to give God his blood and his life... He traveled once again to Rome, this time seeking permission to go to Japan and serve the Lord by converting infidels and perhaps even giving his life as a martyr. But on his way, he fell ill at Marseilles, and had a vision that gave him a new mission –God wished for him to revitalize the faith in his own back yard. 

When he regained his health, he returned home to focus on the many souls who were within reach and needed help. He administered to the poor, the hungry, the old, the young…he prayed with hardened soldiers…He devoted his life to praying… without ceasing …for all the holy souls…He imposed self mortifications upon himself…surviving on mere bread and water for twenty six years. He wore a hair shirt under his clothing and often worked long days with only four hours of sleep each night. Realizing the need for repentance and forgiveness, he heard confessions for hours on end. He became widely known as a confessor and prophet. Many people found healing through his workings…so much so that he earned the nickname “Thaumaturgus of Barcelona” or “Wonder Worker of Barcelona”.

He died on March 23, 1702, a year after he had predicted his own death. Locals from the town had to lend him a bed as to die on, since he did not own one. He had always just slept in a wooden chair or wherever he found a place to rest. When he died, choir boys came running to him and sang ‘Stabat Mater.’ At his grave, numerous miracles occurred.

He was Beatified on May 15, 1896 by Pope Pius VII canonized on May 20, 1909 by Pope St. Pius X.

As faithful Catholics who are often times caught in the every day routines of normalcy, we can understand how this holy saint felt the need to prove his love for the Lord by his grand ideas and pilgrimages. He wanted to do great big things…he was operating with the ‘all in’ mentality… And we have to…we’ve got to be all in not just in great big ways…but in the ‘little ways’ as well. Sometimes we become so preoccupied with grand plans…like traveling to foreign lands and serving the poor…or by devoting oneself to constant prayer, and ignoring our daily duties…or perhaps by even imposing on ourselves self-mortifications of some sort…or maybe even by seeking martyrdom by traveling to dangerous lands…but in reality, God does not call the majority of us to do great big things…

He has made it clear, by the lives of numerous saints, that we are all called to be holy in everything…in those normal daily tasks that occupy so much of our time. All these duties can be done in holy ways… they are, in reality, our paths to sanctification…Like Saint Joseph Oriol, who found that his path to sanctity was right in his own backyard…we don’t need to travel to foreign lands to convert the masses…and like Saint Oriol, we can find our path to sanctification right where we are now…our own hometowns…helping our neighbors…helping the poor…visiting the lonely…At times, all we can do is offer a smile and a prayer…and sometimes…with God and His good graces…that is enough.


Saint Joseph Oriol, Pray for us.

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