Bishop Gruss shares how we needn’t fear death- we can have confidence in God’s love and mercy

As we continue to look at the titles given to him in the Litany of St. Joseph, today we want to reflect upon Joseph as Patron of the Dying.

I believe that many people have a fear of dying. They may not express it [though some do] but for many it is there.

There have been times when I have shared with people that I am praying for Jesus to return now and alleviate the misery in which our culture is living. And they look at me like I am crazy or they make a comment about not wanting this to happen yet.

Yearn for eternal life

There have been times, as a parish priest, when I have visited a sick person in the hospital or their home, and they have expressed to me their fear of dying. Yet, don’t we all yearn for eternal life? I guess we do, but not yet!

Death is a part of life. But for many, it is not an easy part of life. A few weeks ago, on Ash Wednesday, we were reminded that we “are dust and to dust we shall return.”  It is not easy letting go and having to say goodbye.

As a reminder of the reality of death, I know of some people who keep a little sign in their chapel or on their desk which says “Memento Mori”. Literally it means “Remember you must die”.

We were not made for this world

This is not meant to be something morbid, but a constant reminder that we were not made for this world, but for union with Christ in eternity. Why would we or should we be afraid of moving into this reality?

Was St. Joseph afraid of dying?  The Scriptures don’t tell us much about Joseph, and after the incident of losing, and then finding Jesus in the Temple when he was 12 or 13, we read nothing more about Joseph. However, because Jesus entrusts Mary to one of His disciples, John, at His crucifixion, we can make the assumption that Joseph died before Jesus fulfilled His own mission on earth and returned to his Father.

For generations, Catholics have painted a picture of Joseph breathing his last with Mary and Jesus by his side to comfort him. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, a holy mystic, shared this insight into the death of St. Joseph. She shared, “When Joseph was dying, Mary sat at the head of his bed, holding him in her arms. Jesus stood just below her near Joseph’s breast.”

Not afraid of dying

Because of the way Joseph lived his life on earth, I would suggest that he was not afraid of dying. I would suppose that he would have had thoughts of concern about Mary and Jesus’ future. What loving husband and father wouldn’t have those thoughts?

But St. Joseph had boundless confidence in God’s love and mercy. He must have died trusting in Divine Providence, full of confidence that God would take care of his wife and son. This was how he lived his life….and can teach us how to live our lives.

How we are now living our life on earth

I believe that if we answer the Church’s encouragement to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death, we will have no fear of death either, only a joyful anticipation of what is to come. It begins by us reflecting upon how we are now living our life on earth, and then entrusting ourselves to St. Joseph, patron of the dying.

In the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori: “Since we all must die, we should cherish a special devotion to St. Joseph that he may obtain for us a happy death.”

We may not think about this too often, but being prepared for death is important. Why?  Because Satan always tries to lead a soul to despair and to turn us away from our loving and merciful God at the hour of death.

A spiritual battle takes place

For one who is weak in faith, a spiritual battle takes place over a soul at the hour of death.  For this reason, we need the intercession of our spiritual father, St. Joseph. We need him to fortify us, to protect us, and fill us with trust in God’s love and mercy.

To prevent an unhappy death, don’t let death catch you off guard, “like a thief in the night.”

Here are a few important reminders in helping to prepare ourselves for that moment when we will leave this world.

Make regular use of the Sacrament of Penance

Live in communion with the Church. Remain in a state of sanctifying grace. Make regular use of the Sacrament of Penance.  Receive Holy Communion frequently.  Stay close to Mary by praying the rosary. Always be prepared. You know neither the time nor the place.

And go to St. Joseph and entrust yourself to him.  

St. Joseph, Patron of the Dying, pray for us!