Tuesday, November 1, 2011

There are many precious devotions and special traditions which the faithful have been deprived of in our ecumenical age. Some measure of this expropriation on the part of Church leaders is understandable. One appeals to an intellectual through philosophy, to a hedonist through his abhorrence of suffering, and to a Protestant through Holy Scripture, and solely that. It is indisputable that in argument, one may only appeal to authority recognized by both parties. In the case of a dispute between a Catholic and a Protestant, it is also obvious that the Catholic may not cite the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible, as the Protestant will not heed evidence from those verses.

Long years of such disputation with our separated brethren have taught Catholics how to trim their arguments, avoiding theological feats and historical observations in favour of Biblical battles, chapter for chapter and verse for verse. However, the unfortunate effect of being so long an apologist is that it may make one more apologetic. We must not forget all the wonderful treasures of our Faith that we may enjoy when not evangelizing, one amongst them being the apocrypha which is allowed by the Church and endorsed by the saints.

Such an example of this is the 'Story of St. Joseph the Carpenter.' The protective, gentle shadow, (whose
generosity and compassion causes him to stand above so many saints mentioned in the Gospels) is not often spoken of, yet those who knew Jesus through His first thirty years knew him as the Son of the carpenter. St. Joseph is the patron of departing souls, and there are many of the faithful who pity him that he could not taste Heaven immediately after his death, but had to wait for the fruition of Good Friday. I always imagined St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph as the first two souls that Christ wrenched out of Limbo when He harrowed Hell. Death must have been terrifying for that just man so keenly aware of his transgressions in an age that as yet existed without Sacraments. The apocryphal tale mentioned above relates how an angel revealed to St. Joseph the nearness of his death. Below was the prayer on his lips:

O God! Author of all consolation, God of all compassion, and Lord of the whole human race; God of my soul, body, and spirit; with supplications I reverence you, O Lord and my God. If now my days are ended, and the time draws near when I must leave this world, send me, I beseech You, the great Michael, the prince of Your holy angels: let him remain with me, that my wretched soul may depart from this afflicted body without trouble, without terror and impatience. For great fear and intense sadness take hold of all bodies on the day of their death, whether it be man or woman, beast wild or tame, or whatever creeps on the ground or flies in the air. At the last all creatures under heaven in whom is the breath of life are struck with horror, and their souls depart from their bodies with strong fear and great depression. Now therefore, O Lord and my God, let Your holy
angel be present with his help to my soul and body, until they shall be dissevered from each other. And let not the face of the angel, appointed my guardian from the day of my birth, be turned away from me; but may he be the companion of my journey even until he bring me to You: let his countenance be pleasant and gladsome to me, and let him accompany me in peace. And let not demons of frightful aspect come near me in the way in which I am to go, until I come to You in bliss. And let not the doorkeepers hinder my soul from entering paradise. And do not uncover my sins, and expose me to condemnation before Your terrible tribunal. Let not the lions rush in upon me; nor let the waves of the sea of fire overwhelm my soul— for this must every soul pass through — before I have seen the glory of Your Godhead. O God, most righteous Judge, who in justice and equity wilt judge mankind, and wilt render unto each one according to his works, O Lord and my God, I beseech You, be present to me in Your compassion, and enlighten my path that I may come to You; for You are a fountain overflowing with all good things, and with glory for evermore. Amen.

'Remember the four last things, my son, and you will not sin forever.' The very marrow of my bones melts in fear at my own impending expiration, when I contemplate the terror this great saint felt when his sickness strengthened unto imminent death:

What shall I do when I arrive at that place where I must stand before the most righteous Judge, and when He shall call me to account for the works which I have heaped up in my youth? Woe to every man dying in his sins! Assuredly that same dreadful hour, which came upon my father Jacob, when his soul was flying forth from his body, is now, behold, near at hand for me. Oh! How wretched I am this day, and worthy of lamentation! But God alone is the disposer of my soul and
body; He also will deal with them after His own good pleasure.

Hearing this lament, the young Christ, perhaps eighteen or nineteen according to this legend, took compassion on His foster father and went to comfort him. It was then that He saw:

...Death ready approaching, and all Gehenna with him, closely attended by his army and his satellites; and their clothes, their faces, and their mouths poured forth flames. And when My father Joseph saw them coming straight to him, his eyes dissolved in tears, and at the same time he groaned after a strange manner. Accordingly, when I saw the vehemence of his sighs, I drove back Death and all the host of servants which accompanied him. And I called upon My good Father, saying:

Father of all mercy, eye which see, and ear which hear, hearken to my prayers and supplications in behalf of the old man Joseph; and send Michael, the prince of Your angels, and Gabriel, the herald of light, and all the light of Your angels, and let their whole array walk with the soul of My father Joseph, until they shall have
conducted it to You. This is the hour in which My father has need of compassion. And I say unto you, that all the saints, yea, as many men as are born in the world, whether they be just or whether they be perverse, must of necessity taste of death.

And thus did St. Joseph, perhaps, receive a special conduct on his death. So, as we hover between the feasts, All Saints and All Souls, let us recall one who keenly shared the lot of both. And humbly, let us ask for his guardianship at the hour of our own death, counting on his paternal empathy and compassion.

Sancte Joseph, Patróne moriéntium, ora pro nobis.


Joseph said...

Thank you.

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