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Patron of a “Happy Death” A Special Role for St. Joseph [Catholic/Orhtodox Caucus] ^ | November 2010 | Louise Perrotta

Posted on 11/03/2010 4:10:06 PM PDT by Salvation

Patron of a “Happy Death”

A Special Role for St. Joseph

Patron of a “Happy Death”

With November, we enter the season of last things. Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere are watching the last leaf fall, the last bird fly south for the winter. It is a month that is a special time to reflect on what spiritual writers have traditionally called “the four last things”—death and judgment, heaven and hell.

November opens with All Saints Day, which invites us to fix our eyes on heaven and live in a way that leads to eternal joy. All Souls Day, on November 2, is when we remember all those who have died in Christ; the Church encourages us to offer them the support of our prayers throughout this month.

With all its reminders that we and those we love are mortal, November can be a disconcerting time. It’s uncomfortable to think about death, especially our own death. But among the victorious saints we celebrate on November 1, there is a fatherly figure who can help us prepare for and make a peaceful transition from this earthly life. This is St. Joseph, special patron of the dying.

The Happy Death. The reason why Joseph is qualified to play this role is movingly portrayed in a large statue at the Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri. It shows him on his deathbed, with Jesus and Mary by his side. The mood is grave. Though Jesus is the savior of the world, his family is about to taste the pain of separation; death is not a friend but an “enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Mary leans toward Joseph, her hands clasped, her expression mournful. (How often we remember her as “the sorrowful mother,” forgetting that she was also a sorrowful widow.) As for Joseph, he is pointing to himself, eyes upraised as if seeking reassurance. Jesus supplies it. Tenderly supporting Joseph’s head with his left arm, he lifts his right hand in a blessing over the man he called father.

It is the best of good deaths, the death we all desire. “No man or woman ever had such a privilege as that of dying in the company of Jesus and Mary,” observed Francis Filas, S.J. “No deathbed scene could ever have been attended by witnesses who were more consoling. It has been logical, then, to ask St. Joseph to intercede for us that we, too, might imitate his death by breathing our last in the friendship of Jesus and Mary.”

Reasonable Assumptions. You won’t find Joseph’s death described in your Bible. He makes his last appearance at the finding of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). After that, Joseph is mentioned only indirectly (for example, in Matthew 13:55). Luke does imply, however, that when twelve-year-old Jesus returned obediently to Nazareth, he was settling in for the long haul—for “years” of increasing in wisdom and grace under both Joseph and Mary’s supervision (Luke 2:52).

The most reasonable conclusion is that Joseph was living for most of the “hidden” Nazareth years but died before Jesus began his public ministry. Otherwise, why no mention of Joseph among the Cana wedding guests (John 2:1-2) or with Mary and the other relatives who showed up when Jesus was teaching his disciples (Mark 3:31-32)? Why, if Joseph were alive, would Jesus have spoken from the cross to entrust Mary to the beloved disciple (John 19:26-27)?

Assuming that Jesus was still living at home when Joseph died, he most likely took charge of the funeral and burial arrangements. In his culture, this was a son’s special responsibility toward his parents. Quite possibly, Jesus himself washed Joseph’s body, anointed it with oil, and wrapped it with spices (one day, non-family members would perform these services for Jesus: Acts 9:37; Matthew 26:12; John 19:40).

Burials in the ancient world normally took place very quickly, on the day or the day after death. Relatives and friends would have gathered at Joseph’s home and placed his body on a wooden stretcher—another poignant note. Joseph and Jesus had probably filled orders for many a bier in their workshop. The corpse was carried to a gravesite outside the village. Vocal lamentation being very much a part of this culture, it was surely not a quiet crowd (Acts 8:2; Matthew 9:23). Joseph’s funeral procession was just the kind that Jesus would later encounter and be moved by in the town of Nain (Luke 7:11-14).

Were any priests present? What prayers, eulogies, and blessings were said along the way and at the burial place? With no reliable description of first-century customs to go by, all we can reasonably hold is that some sort of praying took place and that Jesus played the key part, as would befit a “firstborn son.” We may not know exactly what services this entailed, but we can be sure that Jesus performed them for Joseph with the greatest love.

Now and at the Hour of Our Death. It was in the seventeenth century, during the last violent outbreak of the plague in Europe, that St. Joseph became especially known as patron of the dying. Faced with the prospect of sudden death, many people urgently desired help for dying a good death.

The Jesuits met this need by holding Joseph up as a model of someone who died well because he was close to Jesus. To provide guidance for realizing this goal, they founded the “Good Death Society” and wrote books like The Art of Dying Well, by cardinal and theologian St. Robert Bellarmine. The Jesuits’ message was always the same, says Fr. Michael Malone: Closeness to Jesus—through frequent reception of the sacraments, prayer, and good works—is “the surest way of attaining peace in this world and eternal joy in the next.”

In our day, however, and most especially in America, medical advances and popular culture work to keep thoughts of mortality at bay. When the subject of one’s death does arise, there is much talk of how to tame, manipulate, or even engineer it. In a whimsical New York Times article, David Brooks predicts that this take-charge tone will only increase as the baby boomers enter their “prime perishing years.” They will “turn dying into a form of self-expression…. They’ll say things like, ‘I don’t want to just die; I want to claim ownership of my death,’ and they’ll start buying self-actualizing books with titles like, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dead People.”

Such approaches only mask the deep-seated fear of death that all human beings experience. Only Jesus, who holds out the promise of eternal life through his death and resurrection, can calm our fear.

Overcoming our misguided notions, facing and preparing for death in a Christian way, trusting God as the Author and Giver of life from beginning to end—for all of this and more, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps more than ever before, we also stand in special need of an end-of-life guide and intercessor.

St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, stands ready to meet that need. If we ask him, he will help us to see past the fear and confusion that surrounds us and discover what it really means to die well. Together with Mary, he will intercede for us in our final hour. He will help us to face death in a way that gives glory to God.

St. Joseph,

Comfort of the afflicted, pray for us.

Hope of the sick, pray for us.

Patron of the dying, pray for us.

Terror of demons, pray for us.

Protector of holy Church, pray for us.

— taken from the Litany of St. Joseph

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; prayer; saints
St. Joseph, we ask that you be with us as we die...... PS. You can bring Jesus and Mary too!
1 posted on 11/03/2010 4:10:12 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...
Discussion Ping!

If you aren’t on this ping list NOW and would like to be on it, please Freepmail me.

2 posted on 11/03/2010 4:11:44 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
Patron of a “Happy Death” A Special Role for St. Joseph [Catholic/Orhtodox Caucus]
Joseph, Mary and Jesus: A Model Family
Season of Announcement - Revelation to Joseph
In hard times, don't forget about the humble carpenter Joseph
Saint Joseph: Complete submission to the will of God (Pope Benedict XVI) (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
St. Joseph as Head of the Holy Family (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
St. Joseph, Patron of a Peaceful Death [Catholic Caucus]

Octave: St. Joseph, A 'Man’s Man', Calling Men to Jesus
St. Teresa de Avila's Devotion to St. Joseph (Catholic Caucus)
Catholic Men's National Day of Prayer, MARCH 15, 2008, The Solemnity of St. Joseph (Catholic Caucus)
The Role and Responsibility of Fatherhood - St. Joseph as Model
St. Joseph - Foster Father of Jesus
Nothing Will Be Denied Him (St. Joseph)
The Heart of a Father [St. Joseph]
Quemadmodum Deus - Decree Under Blessed Pius IX, Making St. Joseph Patron of the Church
Father & Child (An Evangelical Minister preaches on St. Joseph)
March 19 - Feast of St. Joseph - Husband of Mary - Intercessor of civil leaders

St. Joseph's Spirit of Silence
St. Joseph's Humility (By St. Francis de Sales)
St. Joseph [Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary], Solemnity, March 19
The Heart of St. Joseph
The Importance of Devotion to St. Joseph
St. Francis de Sales on St. Joseph (Some Excerpts for St. Joseph's Day 2004)
St. Joseph: REDEMPTORIS CUSTOS (Guardian Of The Redeemer)
(Saint) Joseph the Patriarch: A Reflection on the Solemnity of St. Joseph
How I Rediscovered a "Neglected" Saint: Work of Art Inspires Young Man to Rediscover St. Joseph

3 posted on 11/03/2010 4:16:14 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Temple Owl


4 posted on 11/03/2010 4:31:06 PM PDT by Tribune7 (The Democrat Party is not a political organization but a religious cult.)
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To: Salvation

Happy Death bump

5 posted on 11/03/2010 5:08:02 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Palin/Hunter 2012 -- Bolton their Secretary of State)
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