Superhero Saints: Levitation, the Power to Hover or Fly

Understanding miracle superpowers like Superman and Wonder Woman

St. Joseph of Cupertino
By Freedom 4eagle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Superheroes in movies, television, and comic books have incredible superpowers, such as the power to fly like birds. Superman, Wonder Woman, and many other characters can fly – but so can real humans, sometimes! God has given miracle powers to some saints, believers say. These supernatural abilities aren’t just for entertainment; they’re signs designed to draw people closer to God. Here are some saints that reportedly had the miraculous superpower of levitation (the ability to rise into ​the air and hover or fly):

Saint Joseph of Cupertino

St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663) was an Italian saint whose nickname was “The Flying Friar” because he levitated so often. Joseph literally flew around the church when he was deep in prayer. He levitated high off the floor many times while he was praying intensely, to the shock and awe of many witnesses. First, Joseph would go into an ecstatic trance during prayer, and then his body would rise and fly – sending him soaring around as freely as a bird.

People documented more than 100 different flights Joseph took during his lifetime. Some of those flights lasted for several hours at a time. While Joseph most often flew while praying, he also sometimes flew while enjoying music that praised God or looking at inspirational artwork.

One of Joseph’s most famous flights was a brief one that happened when he met Pope Urban VIII. After Joseph bent down to kiss the pope’s feet as a sign of reverence, he was lifted up high into the air.

He came down only when an official from his religious order called him to return to the ground. People talked often about that flight, in particular, because it had disrupted such a formal occasion.

Joseph was especially known for his humility. He had struggled with learning disabilities and clumsiness since he was a child.

But although many people had rejected him for those weaknesses, God had given him unconditional love. So Joseph responded to God’s love by constantly seeking a closer relationship with God. The closer he got to God, he said, the more he realized how much he needed God. Joseph became an extraordinarily humble man. From this grounded place of humility, God raised Joseph to heights of joy during his prayer times.

The Bible promises in James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Jesus Christ declares in Matthew 23:12 of the Bible: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” So God’s purpose for giving Joseph the gift of miraculous levitation may have been to draw attention to Joseph’s humility. When people humble themselves before God, they recognize that their own abilities are limited, but God’s power is unlimited. Then they’re motivated to rely on God to empower them every day, which pleases God because it draws them closer to him in a loving relationship.

Saint Gemma Galgani

St. Gemma Galgani (1878-1903) was an Italian saint who levitated once during a miraculous vision while interacting with a crucifix that had come alive in front of her.

Gemma, who was known for her close relationship with guardian angels, also emphasized the importance of compassion to living a truly faithful life.

One day, Gemma was doing some chores in her kitchen while looking at a crucifix hanging on a wall there. As she thought about the compassion that Jesus Christ showed to humanity through his sacrificial death on the cross, she said, the image of Jesus on the crucifix came alive. Jesus extended one of his hand out in her direction, inviting her to embrace him. Then she found herself lifted off the floor and flying up to the crucifix, where her family said she remained for a while, hovering in the air near the wound in Jesus’ side that represented one of his crucifixion injuries.

Since Gemma often urged others to develop compassionate hearts and help suffering people, it’s fitting that her levitation experience pointed to an image of suffering for a redemptive purpose.

Saint Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Spanish saint who was known for mystical experiences (including meeting an angel who pierced her heart with a spiritual spear). While praying, Teresa often entered ecstatic trances, and on several different occasions, she levitated in the air during those trances. Teresa stayed airborne for as long as a half an hour at a time, witnesses reported.

A prolific writer on the subject of prayer, Teresa wrote that when she levitated it was like God’s power overwhelming her. She admitted to being scared when she was first lifted off the ground, but she gave herself fully to the experience. "It seemed to me when I tried to make some resistance, as if a great force beneath my feet lifted me up,” she wrote of levitation. “I know of nothing with which to compare it, but it was much more violent than other spiritual visitations, and I was therefore as one ground to pieces."

Teresa taught others how the pain of living in a fallen world can draw people to God, who uses pain to accomplish something valuable in every situation. She wrote about how pain and pleasure are closely connected because they both involve deep feelings. People should pray wholeheartedly to God without holding anything back, Teresa urged, and God will respond wholeheartedly to such prayers. She emphasized the importance of pursuing unity with God through prayer, to enjoy the close connection that God wants everyone to have with him. It may be that Teresa’s gift of levitation helped people pay attention to the possibilities that exist when people really give their whole hearts to God.

Saint Gerard Magella

St. Gerard Magella (1726-1755) was an Italian saint who lived a brief yet powerful life, during which he levitated on numerous occasions that many people witnessed. Gerard suffered from tuberculosis and lived only to age 29 as a result of that illness. But Gerard, who worked as a tailor to support his mother and sisters after his father died, spent most of his free time encouraging the people he met to discover and pursue God’s purposes for their lives.

Gerard often prayed for people to come to know and do God’s will. Sometimes he levitated while doing so – as he did while he was a guest at the home of a priest named Don Salvadore. When Salvadore and others in his household knocked on Gerard’s door one day to ask him something, they found Gerard levitating while praying. They said they watched in amazement for about half an hour before Gerard returned to the floor.

Another time, Gerard was walking outside with two friends and discussing the Virgin Mary with them, talking about her motherly guidance to help people find God’s will for their lives. Gerard’s friends were shocked to see Gerard lifted up high into the air and fly nearly a mile while they walked below him.

Gerard famously said: “Only one thing is necessary in your anguish: bear everything with resignation to the Divine Will … Hope with a lively faith and you will receive everything from Almighty God.”

The miracle of levitation in Gerard’s life seemed to highlight how God can do anything for people who are willing to look beyond their own plans for their lives to whatever God’s will is for them.

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Hopler, Whitney. "Superhero Saints: Levitation, the Power to Hover or Fly." ThoughtCo, Dec. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/levitation-the-power-to-hover-3961453. Hopler, Whitney. (2017, December 4). Superhero Saints: Levitation, the Power to Hover or Fly. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/levitation-the-power-to-hover-3961453 Hopler, Whitney. "Superhero Saints: Levitation, the Power to Hover or Fly." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/levitation-the-power-to-hover-3961453 (accessed December 17, 2017).