March 23: The Death of a Papal Zouave


The book, The Month of St. Joseph, presents daily considerations for the month of March in the form of meditations and practical examples. The example for today is as follows.



Joseph le Saige de la Villebrune, who was lieutenant in the Pontifical Zouaves, was remarkable for his great devotion to St. Joseph, who, in consequence rewarded him visibly on his death-bed. Feeling the near approach of death he sent for the military chaplain, saying: “St. Joseph has ordered me to make my confession immediately, and I know there is not a minute to lose.”

After hearing his confession the chaplain said, “I am now going to say Mass for you, after which I will bring you the Holy Viaticum;” but the dying man sent again for him just as he was about beginning Mass, saying, if he waited till it was finished it would be too late, as by that time he would have lost consciousness and should not recover it. He then recited aloud prayers in preparation for Communion, and after receiving, he thanked God for the grace which had been bestowed upon him, and for the warning of approaching death that he had received. The fervor of his devotion edified all who were present.

As he had predicted, no sooner had he finished his prayers, than he was seized with a fit of delirium; his eyes were closed, but after awhile opening them he made an effort to rise, and throwing himself at the feet of the statue of St. Joseph, called out to the nurse, “Make haste and bring me my clothes, for St. Joseph is waiting for me; cannot you see he is standing there waiting for me.”

Next day about three in the morning he raised himself on his bed, opened his eyes and fixing them on the statue, without any agony gently breathed his last.


This anecdote comes from the Month of St. Joseph by Abbé Berlioux, originally published in English in the year 1887. This book contains meditations and an example story for each day of the month. In an effort to preserve short inspiring stories from our Catholic past, every day for the month of March you can find the example story for the day published on the website under people/stories.

The same author also published similar books for the months of, May (Our Lady), June (Sacred Heart), and November (Holy Souls). We are planning to post the stories for these months in the future and are working with Mediatrix Press to re-publish these as a four book collection, so be sure to check back. The Month of St. Joseph is available now.