Saint Joseph, in Fatima?

by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC

In light of the perilous state of traditional family life in our culture, we can learn a lot through a miraculous incident that occurred 102 years ago this month. It features the man we've been honoring this year: St. Joseph.

On Oct. 13, 1917, Our Lady appeared in the final and most dramatic of her six apparitions that year in Fatima, Portugal. Pointing to the spiritual path that leads to Heaven, she told the three shepherd children, "I am the Lady of the Rosary. ... People must amend their lives and ask pardon for their sins. They must not offend our Lord anymore, for He is already too much offended!"

As you probably recall, this was the apparition that featured the Miracle of the Sun, when the sun seemed to plummet toward the earth, which led many who witnessed it to fear the end of the world.

But a less-discussed element of the Oct. 13 apparition was the appearance of St. Joseph.

In her memoirs, Fatima in Lucia's Own Words, written years later, Sr. Lucia described the remarkable sight that immediately followed the Miracle of the Sun. She described seeing "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."

Contrasted with the frightful Miracle of the Sun, what a peaceful vision! Saint Joseph holds his foster child, Jesus Christ, in his arms. Together, they bless the world as Our Lady of the Rosary looks on.

What are we to make of this?

Well, here's what Sr. Lucia made of it. In her book "CALLS" from the Message of Fatima, she wrote:

Hence, in the Message of Fatima, God calls on us to turn our eyes to the Holy Family of Nazareth, into which He chose to be born, and to grow in grace and stature, in order to present to us a model to imitate, as our footsteps tread the path of our pilgrimage to Heaven.

In other words, in this broken and disordered world, the Holy Family represents sanctuary and stability. The Oct. 13 vision reminds us that in these troublesome times, we can and should turn to the Holy Family to reorder our own lives. Like the Holy Family, we are to define our lives by humble and trusting commitment to God and self-sacrifice to one another.

And who can we turn to for help? The head of that household, the protector and provider of the Holy Family, St. Joseph, the patron of families.

In our present time, when families have become so ravaged by the evil one, our corrupt culture, and our own proclivity to sin, we must turn to St. Joseph evermore. The statistics are grim, indeed. About 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Nearly a quarter of children under the age of 18 live in single-parent households. A large majority of Americans now supports same-sex marriage. This is not what God wants.

It's interesting to note that, in the 1980s, Sr. Lucia herself predicted in a letter to then-Monsignor Carlo Caffarra that "the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family."

Civilization is in trouble largely because the family is in trouble. Meanwhile, the Church remains quite clear about the critical role that family plays in salvation. Drawing upon an ancient expression, the second Vatican Council referred to the family as the "Ecclesia domestica," the domestic Church:

It is in the bosom of the family that parents are "by word and example ... the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation" (1656).

Through family, we learn who God is. We learn how to pray. We learn to model our lives on Jesus Christ.

Pope Pius XII foresaw endemic family troubles three decades prior. In a 1951 encyclical, Ingruentium malorum (In the face of approaching evils), he underscored a remedy prescribed by Our Lady herself in Fatima. Specifically, Pope Pius advocated that families pray the Rosary together. He wrote:

In vain is a remedy sought for the wavering fate of civil life, if the family, the principle and foundation of the human community, is not fashioned after the pattern of the Gospel.

To undertake such a difficult duty, we affirm that the custom of the family recitation of the Holy Rosary is a most efficacious means. ...

It unites them piously with those absent and those dead. It links all more tightly in a sweet bond of love, with the most Holy Virgin, who, like a loving mother, in the circle of her children, will be there bestowing upon them an abundance of the gifts of concord and family peace (12-13).

This brings us to October, the Month of the Rosary — when we commemorate the Rosary, celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (Oct. 7), and strengthen our Rosary devotion.

This month, pray the Rosary for peace in the world and for God's grace upon our families.

And remember: In a world that has steadfastly detached itself from God, think of the Holy Family, steady in the midst of chaos, headed by St. Joseph who is ever-ready to lend to our families his providential protection and guidance.

Saint Joseph, pray for us!