Ever since I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2010, one devotion that grew in fervor was to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Having the blessed opportunity to stay in Nazareth for a few days of that pilgrimage and visiting sacred sites such as the home of the Blessed Mother when she was visited by Angel Gabriel (Basilica of the Annunciation) and the carpentry workshop of St. Joseph/home of the Holy Family (Church of St. Joseph), as tradition tell us, I came to understand the relationship of this Holy Family in a different perspective that has helped me in my faith journey. To walk in their steps and to be in the places in which they lived, prayed, and worked overwhelmed my heart with abounding love, faith, and gratitude.
One significant image that will always remain in my mind is the stained glass window of the Holy Family during St. Joseph’s death. It has grown to be my favorite depiction of them. I saw this stained glass window in the crypt of the Church of St. Joseph, where you can also see stained glass windows of the Angel visiting Joseph and the Wedding of Mary & Joseph. Unlike the last two mentioned, I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen the image of the Holy Family during Joseph’s death before, and so this image in particular was one that stayed with me to ponder more on.
The representation of this image captivates me each time I look at their faces. Joseph is sitting in the center and is nearing death. To me, he doesn’t look like he is in pain; rather, he is at peace because he is in the company of the two most important people to him who give comfort toward the end of his earthly life. Though he looks tired, it’s not a kind of tiredness that is of exhaustion; I see this tiredness more as an indication of the faithful service all those years as the protector of Jesus and Mary. He had a heart full of self-sacrifice and obedience to the will of God the Father. He spent his life providing, protecting, and even pastoring his family that he was entrusted to. While of course his foster-son is the Son of God who taught him many things of the Divine, Joseph also taught him many things. Joseph raised Jesus the child with Mary. Just think about the daily life of the Holy Family!
Joseph sits resting on the chest of his foster-son who is also God the Son, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. I love how Jesus is shown in authority here, as most depictions do. That’s one aspect that remained the same from beginning to end: the authority of the Christ as child and man. For years, Joseph was the one who protected the two from harm as we’ve heard in the Gospels. This time, however, I see Joseph in the arms of God and the Blessed Mother giving him protection over death and sadness, giving him a happy death. Not only is the patron of families, workers, and the universal church, but also a happy death.
As Joseph lived his life protecting the gift of his most Holy Family, we, too, are called do the same with God’s gifts with love, as Pope Francis told us in his homily of his Inaugural Mass. I love the example of the Holy Family and I continue to pray that through their intercession, I will be a better instrument to my family and future family, be it God’s will. I also pray to be a better protector of God’s gifts and the faith.
Interestingly enough, I finished writing this post before completing the ninth day of the St. Joseph Novena. How fitting?! Happy Solemnity of this just man, St. Joseph, my dear friends. Enjoy this glorious day!
PATRON OF A HAPPY DEATH
Saint Joseph, how fitting it was that at the hour of your death Jesus should stand at your bedside with Mary, the sweetness and hope of all mankind. You gave your entire life to the service of Jesus and Mary; at death you enjoyed the consolation of dying in Their loving arms. You accepted death in the spirit of loving submission to the Will of God, and this acceptance crowned your hidden life of virtue. Yours was a merciful judgment, for your foster-Son, for whom you had cared so lovingly, was your Judge, and Mary was your advocate. The verdict of the Judge was a word of encouragement to wait for His coming to Limbo, where He would shower you with the choicest fruits of the Redemption, and an embrace of grateful affection before you breathed forth your soul into eternity.
You looked into eternity and to your everlasting reward with confidence. If our Savior blessed the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, John the Baptist, and others, because they greeted His presence with devoted hearts for a brief passing hour, how much more did He bless you who have sanctified yourself for so many years in His company and that of His Mother? If Jesus regards every corporal and spiritual work of mercy, performed in behalf of our fellow men out of love for Him, as done to Himself, and promises heaven as a reward, what must have been the extent of His gratitude to you who in the truest sense of the word have received Him, given Him shelter, clothed, nourished, and consoled Him at the sacrifice of your strength and rest, and even your life, with a love which surpassed the love of all fathers.
God really and personally made Himself your debtor. Our Divine Savior paid that debt of gratitude by granting you many graces in your lifetime, especially the grace of growing in love, which is the best and most perfect of all gifts. Thus at the end of your life your heart became filled with love, the fervor and longing of which your frail body could not resist. Your soul followed the triumphant impulse of your love and winged its flight from earth to bear the prophets and patriarchs in Limbo the glad tidings of the advent of the Redeemer.
Saint Joseph, I thank God for your privilege of being able to die in the arms of Jesus and Mary. As a token of your own gratitude to God, obtain for me the grace of a happy death. Help me to spend each day in preparation for death. May I, too, accept death in the spirit of resignation to God’s Holy Will, and die, as you did, in the arms of Jesus, strengthened by Holy Viaticum, and in the arms of Mary, with her rosary in my hand and her name on my lips!
Remember, most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, my loving protector, Saint Joseph, that no one ever had recourse to your protection or asked for your aid without obtaining relief. Confiding, therefore, in your goodness, I come before you and humbly implore you. Despite not my petitions, foster-father of the Redeemer, but graciously receive them. Amen.
Here is the Litany of St. Joseph if you wish to pray this as well.