August 15 is the date the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates the Assumption of Mary into Heaven Body and Soul. It was Pope Pius XII who on November 1, 1950, declared this to be a dogmatic teaching of the Church.
This teaching makes sense on so many levels that as early as the fourth century it was a popular belief among the faithful that Mary was brought body and soul into heaven upon her death.
1) She said, “Yes, let it be done to me according to thy will.”
2) She was the true Mother of God, Jesus Christ, the perfect son who loved her more than any son ever loved his Mother. Would He allow His Mother to remain in the tomb when He could do something about it?
3) She was Full of Grace, not subject to the stain of original sin, which results in death.
4) She was faithful to Him even as He hung on the cross. Then she continued His work by teaching the Apostles.
The Assumption of Mary makes sense. What about Joseph?
First – there is NO dogmatic proclamation about Joseph being assumed into heaven body and soul after his death. Beyond that, we have much to consider.
I) Joseph was the true husband of Mary. Mary and Joseph loved each other with a perfect love.
II) Joseph was selected by God the Father to be the guardian of Jesus and Mary. He fulfilled this duty completely.
III) Jesus, Mary and Joseph, all three comprise the Holy Family. They are a unit.
IV) We read in Matthew 27; vs 51 -53, “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the city and appeared to many.
So we know from the Bible that some have already experienced the reuniting of their souls with their bodies. The Bible does not give us names but we can piously speculate and some of the Church Fathers and saints have done so.
· Saint Francis de Sales declared in a sermon, “St. Joseph is, therefore, in Heaven in body and in soul; of that there is no doubt.”
· Saint Leonard of Port Maurice whose preaching on the Immaculate Conception was instrumental in its eventual declaration stated that Saint Joseph was granted a special privilege when his body and soul were brought to heaven. For proof he references the book of Proverbs that states all her (Mary’s) household are “clothed with double garments.” Interpreters say that double garments signify the body and the soul.
Consider the fact that Jesus cannot refuse his mother any reasonable request. When she was assumed body and soul into Heaven was she to be greeted by her husband’s disembodied soul? If this had occurred would she not ask her son to reunite Joseph with the body that had served both of them for so many years? Saint Augustine and other Church Fathers state it would be improper for Saint Joseph’s body to lie in the ground until the Second Coming given that no other person was as close to Jesus as Joseph was with the exception of his spouse Mary. If the bodies of unnamed saints were raised at the resurrection does it not make sense that the body of the man chosen by God the Father to be the guardian of His Son and his Mother would be among them?
If the body of Saint Joseph remained in the ground would it not long ago have become the object of veneration like so many other saints? Would not his bones be displayed for the edification of our souls? But no remains are available despite claims of where his tomb is located. The body of Moses, who appeared with Jesus on Mount Tabor in glorified form with Elijah, who was taken directly to Heaven, is missing. Is it missing or is it no longer on earth?
So we are left to use our capabilities and decide for ourselves. We cannot make a firm dogmatic proclamation as that is left to the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But just as the Assumption of Mary was piously believed by many for centuries before it was made firm, so too may the faithful pray that Joseph is soon honored with the same dignity.