The holy death of St. Joseph.
On this Solemnity of St. Joseph, I am pleased to share my translation of a brief story from an Italian devotional book. I translated the text as it was found on the blog Cordialiter.
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A rich man had been married for many years and had received from God the gift of three sons. He was devoted to St. Joseph and every year he solemnly celebrated March 19th, begging the Patriarch’s blessing upon his children.
It happened that precisely on the feast day of St. Joseph one of his sons died. The next year – and again, exactly on March 19th – the second son died. The pious father did not stop honoring the saint. But he was exceedingly aggrieved when the anniversary neared, fearing that the third son might die as well.
Absorbed in sad thoughts, he found himself one day in the country and there he received the gift of a clarifying vision. He saw dangling from the branches of a tree two young men who had been hanged. An angel appeared to him and said, “Do you see these two young men hung by a rope? That is how your sons’ lives would have ended if they had reached an older age! But since you have been devoted to St. Joseph, he obtained for you from God that they should die at a young age, to save you from affliction and dishonor and them from eternal damnation. So do not cease celebrating the saint’s feast day – to whom you shall be indebted for yet another grace, seeing as your remaining son will lead a holy life and one day be a bishop.”
When the vision ended the good father recovered his composure. And things thereafter took place as the angel had said.
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St. Joseph, pray for us!
Lucas Cranach the Elder. Beheading of John the Baptist. 1515.
I said to some priest friends at dinner tonight that after I was ordained nearly seven years ago, whenever I preached about martyrdom I would do so in terms of “white martyrdom” (suffering for the faith, not dying for it), saying that it would probably not happen to us that we would ever face “red martyrdom” (dying for the faith).
Well. How times have changed.
The image of the 21 Egyptian Christians forced to kneel on the beach before being decapitated is forever seared into my mind. And then… to hear the reports of how some of them were calling out the name of Jesus before they were killed! Thanks be to God! I hope I would be able to respond the same way in such a situation… but I fear I would shrink back in cowardliness. May God give me the grace.
(NB: I have not watched the video footage of the slayings, and will not watch it.)
So it seems that “red martyrdom” is much more a reality of our time than many of us previously thought. Look at how much has changed in such a short time in our world. Here in Alabama, for example, where I live, one of the last states where one would expect to find gay “marriage”, it has recently been forced upon us by judicial fiat. Seven years ago that was hardly on the radar either.
What is coming next? What is awaiting us here, in the United States of America? Only God knows. But we would do well to pray seriously, and ask the Lord for the grace to withstand whatever may be required of us to give him glory and fulfill his plan for us. He has chosen us to live in this time and place, and he will give us the graces that we need to do so well.
A blessed Lent to all!