March 31: St. Joseph the Patron of a Happy Death

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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.

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EXAMPLE

A priest who was on the African Mission, in the year 1867, relates a striking instance of the way in which St. Joseph hears prayers that are addressed to him. The missioner had received orders from his Bishop to make a visitation of the whole district under his charge, but, owing to circumstances, not being able to do so at the usual time of the year, he was obliged to undertake the journey in a time of great drought, which made traveling extremely difficult, owing to the scarcity of fodder for the mules. In South Africa there is no grass, only a sort of bush, like heath, on which the animals feed.

The Father started on his journey, and had only been gone a day, when an old Italian cobbler arrived at the mission house, having walked a hundred and fifty miles in order to receive the Sacraments, for he felt his days were numbered. He was a cripple, having met with an accident which had broken his back, and caused him to be bent nearly double, so that in walking he was obliged to rest his hands on his knees. In this painful position the old man had walked the one hundred and fifty miles, many days and nights being spent on the road. On his arrival he asked to see the Priest; a lay brother replied that the Missioner had left on the previous day, and it was impossible to say when he would return. The cobbler was sadly disappointed; he said he had not been able to go to Confession for years, and had only lately heard that there was a Missioner at Oudtshoorn.

After waiting a few days he left in despair, walking back the one hundred and fifty miles to his home. Meanwhile, the Missioner pushed forward on his journey, but the drought was so terrible, and the mules became so weak, that he was obliged to stop. The district in which he found himself was wholly unknown to him, and he had no guide but a compass; seeing a hill not far off, he climbed it, hoping to see from the summit some sign of a human dwelling. To his great joy he descried a Dutch or Boer farm, and returning to his mules, he managed to get them as far as the farm house. On knocking at the door, the farmer came out, and asked him who he was, and what he wanted. The Missioner replied that he was a Catholic Priest visiting his district, but owing to the drought, he could not get on, for there was no water for his mules. The farmer, on hearing that he was a Catholic Priest, told him he was himself a Protestant, but that there was a Catholic who had been many years on the farm, an old Italian cobbler, who was in a dying state, and he offered to conduct him to him, The Father followed his guide, who took him to an outhouse where the dying cobbler was laid, and whose joy was great at this unexpected visit of a Priest. He heard his Confession, passed the night with him in the outhouse, and next morning arranged a little altar, said Mass, and administered Communion and Extreme Unction. In the course of the day the poor old cobbler died; he told the Missioner, that taught by his pious Mother, he had said every day, “St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may die well.”

His prayer had not passed unheard. For St. Joseph had sent across the burning sands of Africa a Priest to hear his Confession, and give him the last Sacraments, enabling him thus to die well.

Let us, before the close of this month, resolve to follow the example of the poor cobbler, and never retire to rest without saying, as he did: “St. Joseph, pray for me, that I may die well.”

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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.