Most have heard of the apparitions of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima in August 1917. Many would also know of the miracle of the sun which occurred during the final apparition on 13 October which had been promised by Our Lady the preceding month.
But what many Catholics don’t know is that during the October apparition and as the miracle of the sun occurred in front of 70,000 witnesses, the three seers were given a unique and remarkable apparition of the Holy Family of Nazareth with St Joseph at the fore.
103 years later, it’s an apparition the world needs to look back at again; it represents a sure remedy to the rampant degradation attacking the fabric of global civilisation.
But how are we to understand this apparition and its significance for today?
The eldest of the three seers, the Servant of God Sr Lucia dos Santos, described the vision in what is known as her ‘Fourth Memoir’: “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.”
Her recollection is both rich and powerful in its symbolic intent.
The “Miracle of the Sun” provides the context in which to view the ‘convulsions’ that have taken place in the sphere of family life during the past 100 years.
“103 years later, it’s an apparition the world needs to look back at again; it represents a sure remedy to the rampant degradation attacking the fabric of global civilisation.”
Today, the family is fighting for its very survival in the face of ideologies which seek to dismantle its central pillar: the spousal relationship of husband and wife.
In the last 12 months alone, the culturally marxist BLM movement posted a manifesto on its official website declaring its intent to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”, whitewashing the father in the process of doing so.
Those who experienced the Miracle of the Sun in 1917 believed they were about to die as they watched the sun “shake and tremble”, to use the words of eyewitness Maria Carreira.
“It looked like a wheel of fire that was going to fall on the people,” she said.
In his book St Joseph, Fatima, and Fatherhood, Monsignor Joseph Cirrincione offers one thought as to why the phenomenon of Fatima, together with the apparition of St Joseph as Head of the Holy Family, is so significant: “In the convulsions of the sun, I see an ominous foreshadowing of the consequences for the world which are sure to be felt if the true fatherhood of the family is rejected by mankind.”
The Monsignor’s opinion resonates with a contemporary age characterised by a widespread concrete rejection of authentic fatherhood.
Today, men encourage, financially support, and facilitate the annual global genocide of an estimated 40,000,000 aborted children.
The concept of God as a loving Father is all but forgotten as cynicism towards religion deepens. Men have failed to live their gift of fatherhood intentionally and have left in their wake broken marriages and families, misdirected and impoverished children, and devastated communities.
The situation might seem hopeless. But God is the God of the impossible and he has given us St Joseph for this very time in history. As Paul told the Romans, where sin abounds, grace abounds more.
The October 1917 apparition reveals a vision of the Holy Family which is without historical precedent, yet one which is filled with hope.
The health of the family unit is essential to social stability and the model of the Holy Family is the sign of hope so desperately needed in the contemporary and seemingly pervasive chaos.
“But God is the God of the impossible and he has given us St Joseph for this very time in history. As Paul told the Romans, where sin abounds, grace abounds more.”
A holy family with Jesus at its very centre, with St Joseph as its spiritual father, protector, and nurturer, and Our Lady as its mother and heart, is the model that we need for this time.
In the book Calls, one of her last written works, Sr Lucia provided an insight into the message of Fatima. With specific reference to the vision of the Holy Family of 13 October 13, she wrote:
“In times such as the present, when the family often seems misunderstood in the form in which it was established by God, and is assailed by doctrines that are erroneous and contrary to the purposes for which the Divine Creator instituted it, surely God wished to address to us a reminder of the purpose for which He established the family in the world? God entrusted to the family the sacred mission of co-operating with Him in the work of creation. This decision to associate His poor creatures with His creative work is a great demonstration of the fatherly goodness of God … Thus the Divine Creator wished to entrust to the family a sacred mission, that makes two beings become one in union so close that it does not admit of separation.”
The child-visionary drills down to the heart of the matter – marriage. With Pope Francis having repeatedly warned of the reality of the devil throughout his pontificate, it’s clear that the Enemy knows to destroy marriage is to attack precisely the means by which the Father has established communities of life and love in the world.
In the fruitful spousal union of man and woman, the goodness of God’s Fatherhood can be recognised. St John Paul II described fatherhood and motherhood as containing “in an essential and unique way a likeness to God.” This ‘essential’ likeness to God was precisely what St Joseph sought to live in every aspect of his fatherhood.
It was Joseph who named the Child, “Jesus,” taking responsibility for his wellbeing and that of His mother. Every father needs to live out this ‘likeness’ in all seriousness, ‘intentionally’ making present and tangible the love of God the Father, especially to their children for whom they are eternally responsible.
So that the men of today are capable of following St Joseph, there must be a renewal of the vocation of fatherhood that commences in the depths of every father’s heart.
In the Holy Family, St Joseph stands apart as an icon of the Father to Pope Francis’s words in his recent exhortation Patris Corde, St Joseph is the “earthly shadow of the Heavenly Father: he watched over [Jesus] and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.”
Men today need to state the following with the utmost conviction; “I choose to be an authentic father and to be the icon of God the Father in my family!” This call to every man emerges straight out of the Fatima experience, especially now. It is a call of encouragement. Once a man intentionally embraces the responsibility and gift of fatherhood, he becomes capable of tremendous possibilities and good for his family.
“St Joseph is the “earthly shadow of the Heavenly Father: he watched over [Jesus] and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.”
Because St Joseph reveals a human face of God as Father, every man is called to be the face and the heart of God to their children and to their wives. Men must not only love their wives and children, they must ensure that they know, without a shadow of doubt, that they are unconditionally loved. In the words of Devin Schadt, founder of the fast-growing ‘Fathers of St Joseph’ movement, every father in every family “must set the pace of self-giving love”.
Every man must be a protector of women and children and take his place in building a culture of life and love. At this moment in history he is especially called to stand in the breach and defend the life of the unborn and vulnerable women.
In the Holy Family vision at Fatima, St Joseph holds the Child Jesus with Our Lady at his side in the context of the convulsing sun which is generally regarded as symbolising a disintegrating social order.
The image of the God-man in the strong and protective arms of his earthly father St Joseph, is a telling sign to every man in today’s world. Men are called to protect life, children, women and the most vulnerable and to uphold the inherent dignity of every single human person!
In 1997 St Pope John Paul II gave a notable homily in Kalisz, Poland. He did so at the national Shrine of St Joseph, the site of the annual pilgrimage of the Polish priests who had survived Dachau Concentration Camp during World War II and who attributed their liberation by US troops to the powerful intercession of St Joseph.
Referring to St Joseph, the pope stated: “In this place, therefore, we wish to commend human life to Divine Providence and to Saint Joseph, especially the life of children not yet born, in our homeland and throughout the world. Life has an inviolable value and an unrepeatable dignity, especially because every person is called to share in God’s life… Here in Kalisz, where Saint Joseph, this great defender and careful guardian of Jesus’ life, is venerated in a special way, I wish to remind you of the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta … ‘Each one of us is here today because we have been loved by God, who created us, and by our parents, who accepted and cared enough to give us life. Life is the most beautiful gift of God. That is why it is so painful to see what is happening today in so many places around the world: life is being deliberately destroyed by war, by violence, by abortion. And we have been created by God for greater things – to love and be loved.’”
“Life has an inviolable value and an unrepeatable dignity, especially because every person is called to share in God’s life.”
The future saint continued with a call that every man should take to heart: “A nation which kills its own children is a nation without a future. Therefore a general mobilisation of consciences and a joint ethical effort is necessary in order to put into action the great strategy of the defence of life. Today the world has become the arena of the battle for life. The struggle between the civilisation of life and the civilisation of death continues.”
No man can abdicate his duties. In a special way, men are in a battle for the soul of human civilisation. Just as St Joseph immediately rose in the middle of the night and took the Child and His mother to Egypt when Herod posed a threat to their lives, men need to ‘rise’ in today’s world and stand up for those whose lives are threatened by the ‘Herods’ of this modern age.
In a very real sense, a father is a priest in his family home. He must be prepared daily to sacrifice himself for his family and be prepared to lay down his life for the good of his wife and children. St Joseph did this every day for his beloved Spouse and for his son Jesus. His was a life of “supernatural oblation” to use a beautiful phrase of St Pope Paul IV.
In an age and country where Mass attendance by men in the 21-50 years age bracket is less than five per cent, the supreme gift a father can give his children is the gift of the Lord himself. We can imagine here the affection with which St Joseph cradled the infant Jesus in his arms. We can imagine the prolonged look of love with which he beheld the Divine Infant’s face. This same Infant Jesus is given to us in the Eucharist. The efforts a father makes in taking his children to Mass to encounter and receive the source of life Himself, will remain as a sure echo long past the formative years of childhood and adolescence.
It is wonder and awe before the beauty and majesty of God that every father must work to instil. The sight of one’s father on his knees in prayer is the most influential classroom that a child can enter.
At Fatima, Mary called herself Our Lady of the Rosary, an element that was made visually explicit in this particular vision. How many fathers have led their children in prayer with the recitation of the family rosary? Even when one has strayed, the memory of the family rosary is often an oasis in the heart to which one yearns to return.
The rosary is the weapon for peace in the family and for peace in the world.
“The efforts a father makes in taking his children to Mass to encounter and receive the source of life Himself, will remain as a sure echo long past the formative years of childhood and adolescence.”
In the Holy Family apparition, St Joseph and the Child Jesus bless the world together three times with the sign of the Cross. In this critical element of the apparition, we recognise both the baptismal sign by which a father is rooted in faith and by which he can pass on and bless his own children with the gift of faith.
Too many fathers treat the great gift of baptism and the Faith with indifference or, worse still, with contempt. This is a tragedy, often compounded by effectively denying the gift of Baptism to their own children.
Fathers, you are called to bless and to be blessed. You are called to be so much more than the status quo. Fathers, look to St Joseph. Fathers, pick up your children and bless them. Fathers, pick up your children and see the image and likeness of God imprinted on their face and bursting through their very soul. Fathers, wake up and recognise the greatness to which you are called. To what more could a man aspire even if he were to traverse the whole breadth of the universe? Fathers, be what you are called to be and you will rebuild a broken world. Go to Joseph and he will lead you and your family to Christ!