Posts tagged: Happy death

An Extra Job for Saint Joseph

By , March 8, 2011 6:34 am

In the Roman Catholic tradition, Saint Joseph is the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the foster father of our Divine Lord Jesus. Most people would consider that enough work but Church tradition has gradually given him yet another assignment, and that is that he is the patron of “a happy death.”

Happy death? Yes, Catholic moral theology has always stressed that our eternal salvation is decided by our relationship with God at the time of our demise. Therefore, traditional Catholics want to be prepared, want to be ready, want to be in what is called the “state of grace.” Since death can come suddenly, it is necessary to be prepared, to always live a good moral life and to respond to the love that you know that God has for each of us. Thus, the tradition built up that Saint Joseph, who Christian tradition assumes died with Jesus and his mother both present (although there is no mention of that in sacred scripture) that this would have been the happiest of all deaths, to have Mary, the mother of the Lord, and our Lord himself praying over you as you took your last breath.

In my opinion, this is all a pious and good tradition and I think most people are in a good relationship with God at the time their life ends. What about other factors connected with the end of life? Until 100 years ago, almost everyone died at home, surrounded by family and prayer. Today, many of us are dying in the intensive care rooms of our hospitals, chained or fastened to various tubes, pipes, wires, and other mysterious contrivances. Strong resistance against this is developing and the hospice ministry is part of that but, nevertheless, those tubes are still here for many.

Today, the end of life issues are growing more complicated and difficult. Doctors are notoriously inadequate for assisting families with the actual act of dying. The clergy have been more involved but not necessarily more effective. How do we work our way through all of the complexities that surrounds that awesome moment as our bodies fade and we flow into eternity?

I will come back to that issue.

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