Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.
Phenomenon in which a human body is raised above ground and sustained in midair without any natural support. At times the body rises to great heights; at other times it glides rapidly just above ground.
Well-documented evidence of levitation is reported in the lives of many saints, e.g., Francis Xavier, Paul of the Cross, Peter of Alcántara, Philip Neri, and Stephen of Hungary. One of the most celebrated was St. Joseph Cupertino (1603-63), Conventual Franciscan, who was treated with no little severity by his ecclesiastical superiors because of the disturbance caused by his raptures.
According to Benedict XIV, in order to verify genuine levitation it is first of all necessary to make a thorough investigation to eliminate any chance of fraud. Then he states that a well-authenticated levitation cannot be explained on merely natural grounds; that this phenomenon is not, however, beyond the power of angels or demons; and that with the saints it is a kind of anticipation of a prerogative of glorified bodies.