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Saint Joseph: What a Man!
Many years ago I picked up a biography of Brother Andre Bessette, the humble Canadian brother of the Holy Cross who was known for his devotion to St. Joseph. I read the book and came away from it, not so much with a devotion to Brother (now Saint) Andre but with a new found devotion to St. Joseph. Brother Andre did for me about twenty-five years ago what he did throughout his ninety-one years of life: he leads people to St. Joseph.
Ever since then, St. Joseph has figured prominently in my spiritual life. This is never more evident than what happened in 2005. My parents became ill within a few days of each other in February of 2005. I forget now who entered the hospital first, my mom or my dad, but three days after the one entered, the other did as well. Their hospitalization occurred at the beginning of Lent that year. As it turned out, my parents would spend the duration of Lent in adjacent hospital rooms. We would visit them by simply walking back and forth between their rooms.
My father’s condition never seemed life-threatening. He had always been in much better health than my mother but suddenly toward the end of Lent his condition deteriorated. About 7:30pm of the vigil of Palm Sunday, March 19, the solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, my father died. Naturally, we were devastated. Shortly after his death, we moved to my mother’s room who was unconscious but stable. Twenty minutes after my father died my mother died as well. The sadness was indescribable. Yet in the midst of all the emotions the thought (inspiration?) occurred to me that this was really a beautiful death: a husband and a wife, married almost fifty years, on the solemnity of St. Joseph, on the vigil of Palm Sunday, entered eternal life together.
The vocation of marriage entails the commitment and responsibility that spouses will do all they can to help their beloved achieve holiness of life and intimate union with the Living God. My parents’ deaths, in a mysterious manner, bears witness to this dimension of marriage.
It is hard, even now, but I really do take solace in the fact that St. Joseph seemed to be their companion and led them into eternal life.
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