Certainly Joseph died a holy death comforted by the presence and care of Mary and Jesus. We do not know when Joseph died but he did not get to see the death of Christ on the cross because Jesus as he was dying on the cross gave the care of Mary to his apostle John. Lorna Simcox has made this cosmic observation,
"Joseph never lived to see Jesus go to the cross and save His people from their sins by becoming the final atoning sacrifice that satisfied the Jewish law. Perhaps Jesus' victory cry, "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30), resounded in heaven above, where the carpenter from Nazareth heard it and rejoiced." (Web article: Mary and Joseph: A Testimony of Faith)
But as we read in Ps 103:15-16
Our days are like those of grass;
Joseph was soon forgotten by the early Church more concerned with Jesus, Mary and Martyrs. Only in the beginning of the 4th century do we find the Coptic Church of Egypt celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph on the 20th of July. In the Western Church, recognition of the holiness of Joseph came slowly during the Middle Ages.
In 1870 Pope Pius IX yielding to a large number of bishops, declared St Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. He said, in the same way that he once kept unceasing holy watch over the family of Nazareth, so now does he protect and defend with his heavenly patronage the Church of Christ.
What is the source of Joseph's dignity, holiness and glory? In the Encyclical Quamquam Pluries, Pope Leo XIII points out the following:
1) The marriage union of Joseph with Mary was a most intimate union, which by its essence imparts a community of gifts between those who are by it joined together. Therefore, Joseph participated in Mary's sublime dignity and holiness.
2) Joseph by divine will became the guardian of the Son of God. The divine child humbly obeyed Joseph. Could any man be given a greater dignity than to tell God's Son what to do on earth? In view of the above we can see that Joseph grew rapidly in God's favor so that there is no greater Saint after the Virgin Mary in God Cosmic Order of Holiness.
Was Joseph assumed into heaven body and soul?
There are some eminent theologians that hold this view based on the fact of Joseph's physical closeness to Jesus at Nazareth and his spiritual likeness to Mary and further on Mt. 22:51-53 which reads:
"And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
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 holy city and appeared to many."
"On May 26, 1960 Pope John XXIII in his homily for the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord made a statement that the Assumption to Saint Joseph is worthy of pious belief (cosi piamente noi possiamo credere). He also stated that he believed the same privilege was accorded to Saint John the Baptist. This is the first time that a Pope has ever made a public statement on the subject and the fact should offer great reassurance to those who feel it would be contrary to their religious sentiments to imagine Christ refusing Joseph this crowning grace. Pope John's words are a guarantee that such a belief is truly prudent and therefore can no longer be classified as a 'pious exaggeration' ". (Michael D. Griffin,OCD)
Pope John Paul II in the encyclical Guardian of the Redeemer states that
"Pope John XXIII, who had a great devotion to Saint Joseph, directed that Joseph's name be inserted in the Roman Canon of the Mass - which is the perpetual memorial of redemption - after the name of Mary and before the apostles, popes and martyrs." Eucharistic Prayer I now reads:
"In union with the whole Church we honor Mary,
the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God.
We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs...."
We, up to now, have tended to separate Mary and Joseph in their heavenly glory, but their marriage union which began on earth certainly continues in their heavely dimension in Christ Jesus their Lord and our Lord. They both rejoice in the glory of God and in each other in a far greater way than they could on earth.
11. Brother André and St. Joseph