St. Joseph, Patron of a Happy Death

June 30, 2021 • 10 min

From St. Joseph’s Life, Virtues, Privileges, Power, page 257
By Very Rev. Archdeacon Kinane, P.P.

In the age of fierce warfare against the Spouse of Christ on earth, Divine Providence has proclaimed St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church; but at all times St. Joseph has been the Patron of a happy death.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. cxv. 14). What can be more precious, more holy, and more to be desired than a happy death? “It is precious,” writes St. Bernard, “as the end of labours, the consummation of victory, the gate of life.” If we die a happy death, we have gained the end of our creation; we have gained heaven; we have gained God; we have gained our all.

“And I heard a voice from heaven,” writes St. John, “saying to me: Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. From henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours” (Apoc. xiv. 13).

A happy death puts an end to the pains and miseries of this vale of tears." “And God,” continues the Evangelist, “shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away” (Apoc. xxi. 4).

Not only does a happy death put an end to pain and woe: hut what is infinitely more important, it ends the uncertainty of salvation, the fear of offending God by falling into mortal sin; for until we have drawn the last breath in peace with God, we are never sure of being saved; hence exclaimed St. Paul, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death. … to me to live is Christ, to die is gain. … I am straitened … having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ” (Phil. i. 23). “O amiable Death,” exclaims St. Augustine, “who will not desire thee, who art the end of evils, the close of toils, the beginning of everlasting repose?”

A happy death not only ends sin, and pain, and sorrow, but secures heaven, and that for all eternity. At the moment of a happy death all the canticles and music of the Saints and Angels, all the joys and glories of heaven, break upon the soul.

St. Paul, who saw the glory of heaven, was so overwhelmed by its dazzling splendour, that he describes it saying, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what things God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. ii. 9).

The Royal Prophet seeing heaven cries out, “How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! my soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. … Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord; they shall praise thee for ever and for ever. … For better is one day in thy courts above thousands” (Ps. lxxx. 3). The Prophet then addresses the Almighty, and says of His Saints, “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the torrents of thy pleasures” (Ps. xxxv. 9).

Heaven is the prize; the glories of heaven is the prize of a happy death; not only for countless ages, but for as many millions of ages as there are leaves in the forests, drops of water in the ocean, grains of sand on the sea-shore, atoms in the air—for all eternity.

A happy death being therefore so important, are we to wonder that the wise, pious Christians do so much to be sure to attain it?

To die a happy death peopled, in olden times, the deserts with hermits, and has in all ages filled the cloisters with religious of both sexes.

To die a happy death the pious Christian endeavours to avoid all sin, to serve God, to lead a pure and holy life.

To die happily the wise Christian secures the patronage of the Blessed Virgin; knowing that no devout client of Mary was ever damned.

To die a happy death what wise soul would forget Devotion to St. Joseph, the Patron of a happy death.

Happy the death of St. Joseph, who died in the arms of Jesus and Mary. The departing soul covets a last absolution from the minister of Jesus; but St. Joseph at the hour of death was absolved by Jesus Himself. A spiritual writer describes the death of St. Joseph thus:

"Let us enter in thought the Holy House at Nazareth, and contemplate St. Joseph upon his death-bed. The Blessed Virgin supports his head tenderly with her immaculate hands; beside him stands the Incarnate Word, who looks fondly upon him, and fortifies his soul with His gentle looks. Enter with great recollection and respect; for the whole court of heaven is united round the dying man, assisting at the last operations of grace upon the soul of St. Joseph.

“When Jesus and Mary see that the Holy Patriarch is about to breathe his last, they wish to show him all the love and gratitude of their hearts. Jesus presses His beloved father to His Heart, and speaks to him tenderly and fondly, inflaming the soul of the dying man with the most ardent love. He touches St. Joseph’s hands with His own adorable Hands, thereby sanctifying him by the contact, and filling his whole being with divine grace. Mary, standing by, supports the old man’s head in her arms, and breathes sweet words of consolation into his ears. Joseph had been her loving spouse and tender protector during years of danger and difficulty; and her Immaculate Heart burns with loving gratitude towards the dying Patriarch. And thus under the eyes of the Incarnate Word, and in the arms of Mary, Joseph breathes his last sigh without the slightest pain or suffering. Our Divine Redeemer closes the eyes of the dead Joseph, and in fulfilling this filial duty, tears of tenderness and love fell from His Divine Eyes; and the Immaculate Virgin, touched to the heart, mingled her tears with those of her Divine Son.” (Pere Huguet.)

St. Leonard of Port Maurice thus pictures the death of our Saint:

"Let us consider this blessed Patriarch in the arms of Jesus and Mary, at the moment of giving up his soul to his Creator. See him stretched on his poor bed, Jesus on one side and Mary on the other, surrounded by a multitude of Angels, Archangels, and Seraphims, who with respectful attention are waiting to receive this holy soul. O God, who shall tell us with what feelings, at this supreme moment, Joseph took a last leave of Jesus and Mary? What acts of thankfulness, of supplication, of humility, on the part of the old man! His eyes and his heart speak; his tongue alone is silent. He looks at Mary, and Mary at him—and with what love and veneration! Then he turns his dying eyes on Jesus, and Jesus returns the look—but with what tenderness! He takes the hand of Jesus, and presses it to his heart, and covers it with kisses, and bedews it with his tears, and says to him from time to time, less with his lips than in his heart, “My Son, my much beloved Son, I recommend to Thee my soul.” And then placing his hand on his heart, he falls into a swoon of love. Ah, Joseph! if you could but keep fast hold of that hand, which is life, you would not die. Oh, how sweet it would be to die holding the hand of Jesus!

"The soul is on the point of leaving the body: it has already taken flight; but at the sight of Jesus and Mary it pauses; it cannot break its chain. I repeat, Joseph, if you do not cease to look on Jesus, who is your life, you cannot die. Tender and Divine Redeemer Jesus, holy Mary! Joseph cannot quit this land of exile, if you will not give him leave. Jesus lifts His hand. He blesses and embraces His dearly beloved father, and Joseph expires in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

“Worn out with divine love,” says Father Faber, “St. Joseph died in a sweet ecstasy, pillowed in the bosom of Jesus, and with Mary by his side; in the very lap of all that was most beautiful, and most holy, and most heavenly on earth” (B. S., p. 193). Such was the holy and happy death of St. Joseph, and such is the model of a happy death for every Christian: to die in the peace and love of Jesus and Mary.

To reward St. Joseph for having saved His life from the cruelty of Herod, our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ conferred upon him this signal and special favour and privilege, viz., to save the eternal lives, by obtaining a holy and happy death for all who, during life, and especially at death, invoke his aid. Thus is St. Joseph the Patron of a happy death. And this is the great reason why all pious Christians cultivate, by the grace of God, a tender and lasting devotion to our holy Patriarch. *

St. Joseph! be with me dying, and obtain for me the grace of a happy death. “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I give to you my heart and soul.” “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assist me in my last agony.” “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.”

O merciful Jesus, my sweet Saviour! Thou didst console and fortify St. Joseph upon his death-bed, attending him in his last hour as a dutiful son upon his father. O sweet Jesus! hear my prayer, grant me, through the merits of Thy Precious Blood, and through the intercession of Mary and Joseph, the grace of a happy death. Amen.

* St Alphonsus Liguori.

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