by Donal Anthony Foley –
Since March 19 fell on a Sunday this year, the Solemnity of St Joseph is moved forward one day and is celebrated today. St Joseph plays significantly in the final Fatima apparition, and since it is the 100th Anniversary of Fatima, it is good to review his role in the Fatima message and the Church today.
The first time St Joseph was mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima was during the September 13 apparition when she told the children, “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours and Our Lady of Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.”
The next month, during the October 13 apparition, while the great crowd saw the miracle of the sun, the seers alone saw various apparitions of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, including one in which they saw St Joseph and the Child Jesus blessing the world.
St Joseph has appeared rarely in apparitions, so this is significant.
During the apparition at Knock in Ireland, in 1879, the witnesses reported that one of the figures they saw with Our Lady near the church wall was St Joseph; he was inclining his head towards the Blessed Virgin, hands joined in prayer, in an attitude of reverence. He had been declared Patron of the Universal Church in 1870 by Pope Pius IX, and so his stance in the Knock apparition could be said to have expressed an ideal of reverence towards his spouse, who is the spiritual Mother of all Christians.
At Fatima, the appearance of St Joseph with the Child Jesus blessing the world certainly can be regarded as emphasizing the fatherhood of the saint, initially as foster father of Jesus, and now his paternal role as Patron or Guardian of the whole Church, which is the mystical body of Christ. Soon after this apparition, the Bolshevik revolution took place in Russia and atheistic communism rooted in Marxist ideology became entrenched there and soon spread its errors around the world, just as Our Lady predicted. One of its primary goals was the breakdown of the family, stripping parents of their authority over their children and their role as primary educators, which of course had to target the head of family first.
The principle of fatherhood, modelled after the image of God the Father in the Holy Trinity, has been greatly diminished in our world today and society finds itself unable to rely on the protection and stability of the family.
If ever there was a time for St Joseph, it is now. He is the ideal model for all husbands and fathers whose roles need to be heightened for the sake of strong families and strong societies again. We can look back on his appearance at Fatima as a sign of hope for the family and the Universal Church.
St Joseph and the Call of Fatima
Perhaps we can also see a link between the appearance of St Joseph at Fatima and one of the important virtues he possessed, that of doing his daily duties well. According to Sister Lucia who met with John Haffert in 1946 to help him understand exactly what Our Lady wanted, sanctification of daily duty is the most important call of the message of Fatima. This was relayed to Sister Lucia by Jesus in the early 1940s who told her that the penance He now required was the fulfillment of daily duty, which is within everybody’s capability.
If anyone ever fulfilled this exceptionally well, it was St Joseph! He had to cope with the dramatic events surrounding his betrothal to the Blessed Virgin, the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, the threat of being killed by Herod and the need to flee to Egypt. There, as refugees, they no doubt had to endure a precarious existence, with St Joseph having all the cares and anxieties of providing for Mary and Jesus by the work of his hands. This he faithfully fulfilled to the end of his days, always content to remain in the background, saying little.
St Joseph’s role in the life of the Church
St Joseph is regarded as the patron of a happy death, since, traditionally, he had the great privilege of dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary and surrounded by their love. Given the fact that he was an intimate member of the Holy Family, St Joseph’s sanctity must indeed have been very great, second only to that of Our Lady. To be chosen to be the foster father of the God-man, and the spouse of the Virginal Mother of God, are signs of an incredibly exalted vocation.
For various reasons, including the fierce persecutions the Church faced in the early centuries, when it was usually only the martyrs who were venerated, the cult of St Joseph was relatively slow to develop. Even so, he was mentioned by some of the Church Fathers, and from what they said it seems clear that there was some devotion to him present in the Eastern Church, which eventually became the Orthodox Church in its various individual bodies.
It seems that there is veneration for St Joseph in the Orthodox Church, and especially around Christmas. He is given the title of the “Betrothed”, hymns are dedicated to him, and his image is widespread in icons of the Nativity. The focus isn’t on St Joseph as the carpenter of Nazareth, but as the spouse, the betrothed of Our Lady.
This focus is significant in the message of Fatima given the importance of Our Lady’s promise that her Immaculate Heart would triumph, Russia would be converted, and a period of peace would be given to the world.
We don’t know exactly how Russia will be converted, but we do have some clues. For example, according to John Haffert’s book, Russia will be Converted, in May of 1946 a young Russian girl named Natasha Derfelden, who was an exile in Paris, attended an International Marian Congress in Fatima. Apparently, during this event she spoke to Sister Lucia and was told by her that, “the conversion of Russia would be completed through the Orthodox Church and the Oriental Rite.” John Haffert received this report through two independent sources and so felt confident about reproducing it in his 1956 book.
Since St Joseph is Patron of the Universal Church, we might say that this idea also extends to the Orthodox Churches.
In his encyclical on Christian Unity, Ut Unum Sint, (54), which was issued on May 15, 1995, Pope Saint John Paul II, argued that the Universal Church must breathe with both lungs, that is the Eastern and Western Churches must come together in unity.
Let us pray to St Joseph on his feast day, both for Christian unity, and that mankind will heed the message that his Betrothed brought to the world at Fatima in 1917.
Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people – details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/
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