Congregation for the Clergy on St. Joseph, the Patron of a Happy Death
There is another aspect of devotion to St Joseph that is often overlooked nowadays. He is the patron of a happy death. Sensitive souls meditating on Joseph had made the happy supposition that he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary and so had the best possible death.
St. Joseph is the Patron of a Happy Death
P>VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - St Joseph's best known virtues are surely his humility, his openness to God's plan, his ready and perfect obedience, his silence, and his loving care for Jesus and Mary. He is now revered as the patron of the universal Church, a title that was officially recognised in 1847 by Blessed Pius IX. In our preaching today we might focus on the great number of saints who have nurtured devotion to the great Patriarch of the faith, Joseph of Nazareth.
However, there is another aspect of devotion to St Joseph that is often overlooked nowadays. He is the patron of a happy death. Sensitive souls meditating on Joseph had made the happy supposition that he died in the arms of Jesus and Mary and so had the best possible death.
In the Gospels the figure of the foster father fades away after the episode of the finding of Jesus in the temple. Nevertheless, his name is still spoken of when the people - amazed by the teaching and miracles of Jesus - ask "is this not the carpenter's son?" But Joseph himself no longer appears. Tradition has it that he died having completed his vocation to act as father to the Son of God on earth.
Joseph must have left this world by the time Jesus reached maturity, as it would be difficult to explain his absence when Jesus began his ministry or why he was not there at the foot of the cross on Calvary. His death came while he was enveloped in the love of those two most perfect hearts: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We see how he can be considered the patron of a happy death. For Christians, no better death is imaginable than one at which Jesus and Mary are present. Their great love accompanied Joseph in the last and most difficult part of this life. Of course in past times (and even today) it was considered desirable to die at home in one's own bed. More than that, our faith makes us long for the consoling love of Jesus and Mary when we die. This thought prompted the prayer to St Joseph asking for the grace to die in circumstances similar to his.
In recent decades the idea of death has been virtually taboo in our culture. This even affects our liturgical theology and our preaching. Death is a theme which has been banished from religious publications and sermons. Yet we continue to die! Death is a problem that has been ignored, not solved.
It's only an illusion (an ideological one, perhaps, but certainly naive and unrealistic) that tries to keep death away from our thoughts and words. It's this ideology that has downplayed the patronage of St Joseph for a happy death. And paradoxically, the ideology of euthanasia has developed, presenting itself as the new 'happy' death.
However in our modern culture, where violence, sudden death and widespread insecurity still exist, there also remains more deeply the need and desire to be loved forever, to never die and to not be left alone.
Even today - perhaps especially today - it is necessary to reflect, to preach, and to invoke the protection of St Joseph. We should pray through his intercession that God would grant us the grace, after a life worthy of the Gospel, to enter into the light accompanied by Jesus and Mary, our own loved ones, and that same carpenter of Nazareth who obtains for us these heavenly favours.
This is the real 'happy death', and the only one which introduces us to infinite horizons and to that embrace with God which we call paradise! (Cf. Spe Salvi, 12)
2S 7,4-5a.12-14a.16: www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9abuq4g.htm
Rm 4,13.16-18.22: www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9aufdqd.htm
Mt 1,16.18-21.24: www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9a10sxa.htm
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