Saint Joseph is famously the patron of a happy death. What is a happy death, you might ask, and how do we know Joseph had such a death?
Tradition holds that Joseph had died before Jesus began his public ministry. The Bible says nothing about the death of Joseph. The last time we actually see Joseph is when he and Mary find Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51). As Jesus is dying on the cross, he entrusts his mother to Saint John. This gesture makes perfect sense if Jesus is an only child and Joseph has died. Women in the first century needed a male to protect and provide for them; the death of Jesus would have left Mary destitute. As a loving son, Jesus is making sure his mother will be provided for after he has died. This gesture only makes sense if Joseph has died.
Pius artists have therefore depicted Joseph dying at home in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Can you think of a better way to pass into eternity than with the two greatest saints as your bedside companions? Christians have dreamed of just such a peaceful passage and invoked Joseph's intercession for it.
The modern world tries hard to ignore death. We use every medical option possible to preserve life. When life is no longer an option, we advocate for assisted suicide so that I can control even my death. Then we turn the funeral into a "celebration of life" and scatter the ashes so I don't have to visit dad at the cemetery.
Christians, on the other hand, not only accept death, but prepare for it. We are encouraged to walk in cemeteries, pray for the dead, bury our loved ones in consecrated ground, and look forward to the coming of Jesus. When I have a funeral for an elderly person who was pius and faithful all their lives, I will tell the congregation: "Jack spent his whole life preparing for this moment." Can the same be said about you? Good St. Joseph, give us the grace of a happy death.
Prayer to St. Joseph
Good St. Joseph,
as you led the Holy Family, watch over our families.
Help our family and all families to know and share God’s love.
In our family relationships, may we find healing and seek to be holy.
May our fathers help us to become faithful disciples of Jesus
who share our love for Him.
As a foster father of Jesus,
watch over all who serve as spiritual fathers.
In a special way, bless our Holy Father, our Bishop, and our priests.
May they follow your humble example in their fatherly care
for the people of God, the Church.
With Mary, you raised Jesus the High Priest.
You know our need for priests.
Please raise up good and holy priests from our families
to serve the people of our diocese.
May our children and grandchildren hear and say “yes” to the call of Jesus, just as you and Mary did.
Good St. Joseph, pray for us.
Image by Vassil - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6989081