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An Accomplice in a Happy Death

September 17th, 2012by Sean Ater

Did you know that St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death?

The explanation is really beautiful. St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death because he died with both Jesus and Mary by his side. Who could hope for anything more for that last, most difficult journey we all must take?

My Grandfather just passed away. He was in his nineties, so I knew that his days were limited. For the past few years I have included in my daily prayers a prayer for the intercession of St. Joseph – that he would grant my grandfather a happy death.

Grandpa spent the last few weeks of his life in the hospital, then in Hospice of Dayton, suffering the effects of a stroke. I took the opportunity the visit him in Hospice about a week before he passed away. I make the drive from Cincinnati to Dayton often, and I have found that in the time in which you lose reception to Sacred Heart Radio on I75, till you reach your destination in Dayton, gives one the perfect amount of time to pray a rosary.

On this particular trip from Cincinnati to Dayton, though, I felt like God telling me to hold off on that rosary.

I found my Grandpa alone in his bed at Hospice. The stroke had definitely taken its toll but I could tell he recognized me. We held hands and I looked into his eyes and thanked him for being such wonderful grandfather, for giving me some of the best memories of my childhood, for teaching me what it meant to be a holy man. I told him that he always reminded me of St. Joseph, the strong, silent man of God who led his family by the example of his life.

Then I felt an urge to pray the Rosary. My Grandfather is a Lutheran, so I’m sure that he has never prayed a Rosary in his life. But I wanted to pray with him and I could not think of a better prayer to recite at one’s death bed.

“Grandpa,” I said, “do you mind if I pray a Rosary with you?” “It really comforts me in difficult times and I would like to share that with you.” I thought that I saw assent in his silent gaze back at me.

As we prayed through the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, a profound thought struck me. St. Joseph had heard me; God was answering my prayers right here in the midst of our prayer together. For two years I had asked St. Joseph to grant my Grandfather a happy death with Jesus and Mary by his side. God, in His great wisdom, allowed me to be the person who invited Jesus and Mary to that death bed as we prayed:

Hail Mary, full of grace,

the Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.


Sean Ater

Sean Ater is the Director of the Office of the New Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is married with 3 children and a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Milford