Saint Joseph, husband to Mary and foster father to Jesus, is the patron saint of a happy death. Perhaps especially for Catholic husbands and fathers, St. Joseph should also be our model for a happy life.
The Gospels tell us very little about Saint Joseph, leaving many of the specifics of his life to speculation. But I’m willing to guess that Saint Joseph was one of happiest men to ever live. We can conclude this based on the nature of happiness and the way that Saint Joseph lived his life.
Regarding happiness, we should recognize the relationship between happiness and fulfillment. As Saint Thomas Aquinas explains: “For since happiness is a ‘perfect and sufficient good,’ it excludes every evil and fulfils every desire. But in this life every evil cannot be excluded…” Thomas explains that perfect happiness “consists in seeing God,” or “the vision of the Divine Essence.” Because we do not have the Beatific vision of God in this life, we cannot be perfectly happy.
The fact that perfect happiness is impossible in this life might seem a bit depressing. But here is the good news. As St. Thomas explains, “a certain participation of Happiness can be had in this life.” And, since perfect happiness consists in seeing God, it follows that the greatest happiness—the greatest fulfillment—that we can achieve in this life is closeness with God.
What man in history was closer to God than Saint Joseph? Saint Joseph had the unique privilege of raising and protecting Jesus from His infancy to manhood, of watching Jesus grow up, of spending time with God. That unique blessing borders on the incomprehensible, as does the happiness and fulfillment that Joseph certainly found in that blessing. As St. Alphonsus Liguori writes: “St. Joseph was more honored by God than all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and bishops: for all these have the name of servant, but Joseph alone that of father.”
When pondering the happiness of Saint Joseph, we can certainly look to his relationship with Jesus. We can ponder his relationship with Mary as well. It is difficult to fathom the happiness of Saint Joseph when considering the fact that Mary loved him so much. As Edward Healy Thompson, author of The Life and Glories of Saint Joseph, poetically explains, Saint Joseph enjoyed the virginal “love of her who with a single glance of her eye could enhance the joy of the angels of Paradise.”
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