An Italian blog that I follow, Cordialiter, regularly posts excerpts from pious writings. I am happy to share this story from a book by Fr. Giuseppe Tomaselli on devotion to St. Joseph, in my translation.
Though it may be easy to shrug off pious stories like this as flights of fancy, yet they can teach us a valuable lesson: in this case, that things are not always as they seem – and that we should always consider the good that God can draw out of otherwise difficult occurrences. It’s so easy for us to give in to grief and even anger with God when a loved one “dies young” (according to our way of measuring things); this story teaches us that dying young could be the better way to go in some cases. We need to trust more in God’s providence. And devotion to St. Joseph, as part of that, couldn’t hurt, either.
Here is the excerpt, again, in my translation from Italian:
A prosperous man had been married for many years and had been gifted with three sons by God. He was devoted to St. Joseph and, each year on March 19, celebrated solemnly his feast, begging the saintly Patriarch’s blessing on his children.
It happened that one of his sons died exactly on the feast day of St. Joseph. The next year, precisely on March 19, the second son died. Yet the pious father did not cease to honor the saint. Nevertheless, whenever the anniversary drew near he would be most afflicted with grief, fearing that his third son would die also.
One day he was in the countryside and, though absorbed in sad thoughts, was given the grace of an explanatory vision. He saw two young men hanging from the branches of a tree; then, an angel appeared to him and said, “You see these two young men hanging by a rope? Your sons would have faced that fate if they had reached a mature age! But inasmuch as you have been devoted to St. Joseph, he obtained from God for you that they should die young, to save you from affliction and dishonor and to save them from eternal damnation. Therefore, do not omit to celebrate the saint’s feast day, for you owe him also for another grace: your remaining child will have a holy life and one day will be a Bishop.”
After the vision disappeared, the good father regained his composure. And the things that followed took place like just the angel had said.
Good Saint Joseph, pray for us!