St. Joseph at Fatima and at Knock
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.
Sister Lucia reported this about the apparition that day in relation to St. Joseph, who had not been part of the earlier apparitions:
Then opening her hands, she (Our Lady) made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her light continued to be projected on the sun itself. … After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmament, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child Jesus appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When a little later, this apparition disappeared I saw Our Lord and Our Lady. … Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done.
It seems a fitting sight — St. Joseph, not speaking, but with the Child Jesus, holding him, and blessing the world just as he would have, in his time, blessed the Holy Family.
The two parts of the apparition fit with the biblical image of St. Joseph. First, he blesses, even as Our Lady looks on. Joseph is the head of the Holy Family, even though he is inferior in holiness to both Jesus and Mary. Yet he exercises his headship, his true paternity, in the act of blessing.
Second, Jesus blesses, which belongs to him by right at God, but so in the “same manner as St. Joseph.” There is an echo here of Joseph’s paternal guidance, showing that Jesus learned many things — how to pray, how read the Scriptures, how to acquire a trade — from his earthly father, Joseph.
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.
Music to Honour St. Joseph
Let’s honour “the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Mt 1:16). On the day of the Immaculate Conception more than 150 years ago, December 8, 1870, Blessed Pope Pius IX, with the decree Quemadmodum Deus (As almighty God) by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, solemnly declared St. Joseph Patron of the Church. The First Vatican Council had been suspended because of political events in the autumn of 1870 and the Pope, wishing to satisfy the requests of the Council Fathers, entrusted the Church, which was experiencing difficult times, to the special protection of the putative father of Jesus, and elevated the feast of March 19th to the liturgical rank of double of the first class.
On this day dedicated to St. Joseph we want to mention his passing as a theme for meditation. In fact, having died in the best possible way, in the arms of Jesus and Mary, Saint Joseph is considered the most effective protector of the dying.
“The Lord loved him and adorned him; He clothed him with a robe of glory” – Tract: Mass of St Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church and Terror of Demons, pray for us.
[sources for this article: authors, Donal Anthony Foley (Blue Army), Father Raymond J. de Souza (NCR) and Massimo Scapin (on 1P5).]