In God’s providence, Joseph had to die before Jesus did, because Joseph could not have endured His crucifixion; he was too gentle, too loving. He had already suffered much from the persecution Jesus had had to endure from the malice of the people from His twentieth to His thirtieth year; for they could not bear the sight of Him. Their jealousy often made them exclaim that the carpenter’s Son thought He knew everything better than others, that He was frequently at variance with the teachings of the Pharisees, and that He always had around Him a crowd of young followers.
In addition, the Lord had given him great knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and of prophecy so that he knew all that the Redeemer would have to suffer. The cross that Jesus had ever before Him in His thoughts from the first moment of His conception, Joseph too had present in his mind, and his soul was pierced by it. For this reason, while holding the Most Holy Lord in his arms, and often reflecting on all He would have to endure, Joseph’s tears poured down. At other times, while keeping the Babe folded in his arms when it was cold, Joseph would warm His sacred hands by breathing on them.
We must note, then, that the long sickness and sufferings that preceded the death of Joseph were not the sole cause and occasion of his passing away. For with all his infirmities, he could have extended the term of his life if to these infirmities he had not joined the fire of the intense love within his breast. So that his death might be more the triumph of his love than the effects of original sin, the Lord suspended the special and miraculous assistance by which Joseph’s natural forces had been enabled to withstand the violence of his love during his lifetime.
As soon as this divine assistance was withdrawn, his nature was overcome by his love. The bonds and chains by which this most holy soul was detained in its mortal body were at once dissolved, and the separation of the soul from the body that is death took place. Love was then the real cause of the death of Joseph. This was at the same time the greatest and most glorious of all his infirmities; for him, death was but a sleep of the body and the beginning of real life.
There is a certain difference in the graces given to this great patriarch and those granted to other saints. For many saints were endowed with graces and gifts that are intended not for the increase of their own sanctity but for the advance of the service of the Most High in other souls. They were, so to say, gifts and graces freely given and not dependent upon the holiness of the receiver.
But in our blessed patriarch, all the divine favors were productive of personal virtue and perfection; for the mysterious purpose, toward which they tended and helped along, was closely connected with the holiness of his own life. The more angelic and holy he grew to be, the more worthy he was to be the spouse of most holy Mary, the depository and treasury of heavenly mysteries. He was to be a miracle of holiness, as he really was. In the married state with him, she earnestly sought the Lord to sanctify him and inspire him with most chaste thoughts and desires in accordance with her own. The Lord listened to her prayer and permitted her to see what great effects His right hand worked in the mind and spirit of the patriarch Joseph.
These effects were so abundant that they cannot be described in human words. God infused into his soul the most perfect habits of all the virtues and gifts. He balanced anew all his faculties and filled him with grace, confirming it in an admirable manner.
The manner of Joseph’s death was a privilege of his unique love, for his sweet sighs of love surpassed and finally put an end to those of his sickness, being far more powerful. Because the objects of his love, Christ and His Mother, were present with him always, and both of them were more closely bound to him than to any others of those born to women, his most pure and faithful heart was inevitably consumed by the loving effects of such a close union.
Let all the faithful children of the Church be deeply devoted to him. For they will experience these favors in reality if they dispose themselves as they should in order to receive and be fit for them.